Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Hump Month Blog #3: A VISTA Thanksgiving

Our Hump Month blog series continues! Our 2014-15 VISTAs share their thoughts now that they are half-way through their 12-month service commitment.

Please note: Any opinions expressed on the VISTA VIEW blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views, opinions, or policies of North Carolina Campus Compact, the AmeriCorps VISTA program or the Corporation for National and Community Service.

By Meghan Engstran
AmeriCorps VISTA at Meredith College
My name is Meghan Engstran, and I am a North Carolina VISTA member working in the Office of the Chaplain at Meredith College.  When I introduce myself, I like to say I am a relocated Northerner. I was born and raised in Minnesota. After graduating from the University of Minnesota Duluth, I knew I wanted to complete a year of service with AmeriCorps; my only condition was where ever I ended up, it had to be warmer than home.  That is how I landed in Raleigh, North Carolina.
Meghan during a NC
Campus Compact Site Visit

As the VISTA, my main responsibilities are program and volunteer coordinating for Meredith's role in the Children’s Collaborative of Wake County which includes Meredith's  Campus Kitchen. The Collaborative is a community-based collaboration of agencies, whose primary goal is to break the cycle of generational poverty by creating systemic change, through providing birth-to-18 years aged children greater access to educational support and food.

As I started my VISTA year, I had limited understanding of what being part of a collaborative organization meant and even less understanding of its potential. However, now that I am halfway through my term of service, I understand the positive impact collaborations can have on a community.  So often, higher education institutions set themselves apart from the community they are located in but not Meredith College. It is understood that Meredith is an essential part of the community and the community is an essential part of Meredith College. One cannot thrive without the other.

Thanksgiving Dinner 
Being a VISTA comes with challenges, but it also comes with rewards. One of my most meaningful experience happened on one of my more stressful days. We planned a Thanksgiving Dinner for Campus Kitchens, to which we invited the families of the students we normally serve to join us. The day of the dinner, I was going non-stop, dealing with each situation as it came up. Finally though, the food was cooked and we were ready to serve. By this time I was not in a festive mood, however I pasted a smile on and told myself it will all be over soon. When it came time to clean up I was exhausted and thinking to myself never again. That is when I felt a tap on my shoulder. Standing behind me was a mom. What she said next is the reason why I am so committed to serving my community. She said "I have to work on Thanksgiving and I wasn't going to have dinner with my kids. Thank you for having the whole family eat dinner together tonight."

I could not be more thankful for the experience and lessons I have learned in the past six months, and I cannot wait to see what I will have the privilege to experience in the last remaining months of my year of service.