In my mid 20's, I arrived in Anchorage, Alaska in January as an AmeriCorps VISTA. It was cold and dark and needless to say, I hadn't a clue what I had gotten myself into. My assignment was with the Municipality of Anchorage, Parks and Recreation Department to develop and implement a pilot program called Youth Employment in Parks (YEP). I spent the first several months of my service forging community partnerships, developing the program schedule, and securing volunteers and donors to help implement the summer youth employment program.
Around the time when "break-up" season began (when the snow and ice melt), I moved to the implementation phase of my service which included interviewing youth and crew leaders to participate in the program. That summer we hired 20 diverse teens to work in Anchorage parks, learn environmental stewardship and civic engagement skills, and participate in healthy recreation activities. Throughout the 10 week program, youth worked and learned alongside experts in the community while improving waterways, building trails, clearing invasive species, and planting trees. It was a busy summer as I coordinated the programming logistics, managed the PR, and developed the evaluation tools. After our end of summer celebration, my role shifted to evaluating the program impact, identifying ways to improve the program, and securing support for the program to continue.
When my year of service ended, I became a Municipal employee and served as the Grants Administrator for the Anchorage Park Foundation. Through my VISTA service, I learned many skills and a clearer understanding of my career interests. Ultimately this led me to pursue a Masters in Public Administration degree and return to the Corporation for National and Community Service, not as a VISTA but as a State Program Specialist who now helps develop VISTA projects. And I'm pleased to say that the Youth Employment in Parks program is still going strong in Anchorage.