• Alumni story
    Jenine Smith 1983 1985 Butler

    My VISTA service was for an education agency that had more to it than your typical institution. Several programs were housed in this agency and it was very viable to the Butler County community. Seeing first hand people who had been denied an education for whatever reason finally receive their GED or learn to read was very rewarding. Senior citizens had a program they could count on for help, students in trouble had a voice they could turn to whenever they needed it and families about to lose their home or utilities had an advocate. 

    Helping people achieve their goals inspired me to get degrees in Business Administration, Human Resources and Arts Management while working for a major financial corporation. I continue to volunteer in the community (now Pittsburgh) and with various national organizations (ex Farm Aid). My passion is to have a non-profit to help others achieve their goals in the arts, healthy life styles and business. 


  • Alumni story
    Bobby G Smith 1978 1981 Honolulu

    I worked with Protection and Advocacy Agency as an advocate for developmentally disabled individuals.

    I spent 6 months as the patient advocate in Kaulapapa, the Hansen's Disease Settlement on the island of Molokai, probably the most wonderful 6 months of my 40 years here in Hawaii. Too bad that Reagan discontinued the project after only 6 months.

    I was also the Hawaii representative to the 15 year VISTA celebration in Washington. What a treat!


  • Alumni story
    Mary (Peggy) Ripp San Jose

    In the 80's, I had had a nervous breakdown after raising 4 small children and being at home for many years, so I started volunteering at the Santa Clara Food Bank in San Jose, California. It was working so I signed up for the VISTA Program as a site inspector for the food pantries in the surrounding area. Because of my illness (I have a controllable mental illness), my husband actually went with me to various sites on his lunch hour so that I could find the locations and do the work.

    This helped me get started and I ended up being a very good site inspector and helper for the churches and other pantries that were serving the poor. I was so good that after a couple of years, the Food Bank hired me as an office worker and then office manager. I continued to have mental illness and slight breakdowns at times, but worked them out through medications and psychological counseling. I kept on working until I found other employment at three homeless shelters and then left the Food Bank as an employee.

    The VISTA work was instrumental in getting me on my feet and back in the workplace serving needy people. I am ever grateful for the program


  • Alumni story
    Margie Prindle Covington

    Margie Prindle served in the early 1980s in Covington, Kentucky. 

    I began as a volunteer for the Women's Crisis Center of Northern Kentucky. Having been a battered wife, I felt I had something to contribute and a strong desire to make the path out of abuse easier for others than it had been for me. 
    VISTA funded a new position that was offered to me as Children's Program Director. The task was to create a program for the children and to keep up their schooling. I worked with their schools, to get their assignments, provided assistance and discipline to homework assignments. Most of our activities were free. 
    I wanted to provide activities that could continue after the shelter stay. Most of these women were leaving their income source and entering poverty without the abusive spouse. We made collages of things gathered on our river walks, played in parks, games, trips to the library etc. Resources were also developed for a few more expensive activities. We had use of the Brighton Center van and the YMCA facilities; free tickets to Kings Island and other donations. 
    I served one year, launching the new program to provide activities for children in the women's shelter. My belief was that by involving mothers with their children in these activities, the experiences could help mothers focus on their children and increase their confidence in a future without the abuser. There are times though, when a stressed mother needs time to herself or to take care of business, so I provided this also. 
    The goal of my service was to get something started and that goal was met. The program continued with an educated professional to expand what had begun.

  • Alumni story
    James Macomber Portland

    I was working with Clackamas County Social Services, as the disability project manager. We networked with other organizations who served the disabled. We put out a monthly newsletter trying to coordinate what little resources we had. In the late 80's we were instrumental in having curb cuts installed at all the major intersections in downtown Oregon City. We also worked with the spinal cord assoc. as they published an accessible guide to Portland’s restaurants and theaters. One of the fullest years of my life was spent as a VISTA. I have never regretted a single minute of that time. 

    You get back from life what you put into life. Now I run a little non-profit 501 c3 LP FM radio station in Fossil Oregon. I teach hunters education for ODFW, and volunteer with our local 4-H. I also spent six years as a little league baseball coach. Volunteering is something that becomes a life style. Being of service to others is a wonderful way to spend a life. It teaches by example not just words.

  • Alumni story
    Karen Kelly 1980 St. Joseph

    I entered VISTA in 1980 and was sent to St. Joseph, Missouri. I was 20 years old and wanting to change the world. There were 6 of us from all over the country and our job was community development and organizing neighborhoods to spend HUD monies in the community. I met so many amazing people that were also working for change and am friends with many of them today. I met my future husband while serving and actually live in St. Joseph and have for over 20 years. 

    I had never really been exposed to the level of poverty as what I saw in St. Joe and it moved me. It made me want to help to change things even more. I feel that my VISTA year helped to shape life into wanting to be of service to folks in need.  I think all 20 year olds should do a volunteer year and take a step outside the comfort zone and experience real life. I feel lucky to have had the opportunity to do what I have done. When I retire I hope to join the Peace Corps. Thanks VISTA!!  

  • Alumni story
    Rocky Holbrook Columbus

    Rocky Holbrook served in Columbus, Ohio in the mid-1980s. 

    In the fall of 1983, I was a young returning college student just beginning a career in art at Columbus College of Art and Design. As a student with dyslexia, the college was obligated to provide assistance, given the Disability Act of 1973. 
    I arrived at the humble store front office of Basic Skills with its painted over, pegboard walls and used heavy metal office furniture. I was graciously welcomed by Sue and Steve, the only two staff members. Steve put me through some tests. At the end of the assessment, he told me I had an oral reading score of three point blah blah and my comprehension was at college level. I didn’t know what three point meant, so I asked. I will never forget what happened: Steve drew his chin down, swallowed, and said calmly, you are reading on a third grade level. Steve quickly redirected my attention to my comprehension and what the agency could do for me.
    In the months after, I became increasingly involved with the small agency. Wonderful blue-haired ladies of Upper Arlington who were Basic Skills volunteers helped me immensely. During a sabbatical from college, I took a position as a VISTA writing public service announcements, ringing the bell of our fledgling agency. All this time, I was hoping to reach others like myself who needed help in these world of words.
    These were the years before the success of Barbara Bush and Project Literacy U.S. Many of the social issues were kept behind closed doors. Just as with all of history, a few like-minded people chose to tackle a problem larger than themselves and the outcomes can be measured in collective minds of society. Mention the word literacy now and most understand what it means. It was not always that way. Small steps taken by individuals help grow the cause and later success of others build on it. 
    Human kind will never tire of hearing how someone, anyone, has bettered themselves through hard work and determination. It is as Scott Peck wrote, “all meaningful change is made from self discipline.” And I believe that self discipline begins with the observation of others making their way, the power of the individual story. As “my wonderful blue-haired ladies,” the volunteers of Basic Skills, would say, ‘now you are cooking with gas.”

  • Alumni story
    R. Mark Henry 1981 Dayton

    After being away at graduate school for several years, I returned to my hometown of Dayton, Ohio in 1981 as VISTA volunteer assigned to the Ohio Council of Senior Citizens. I worked as an organizer with a variety of affiliated senior citizen and retiree clubs to help them get directly involved in public policy issues they were concerned about at the time. 

    In 1981, this was mainly skyrocketing electric utility rates as well as federal budget cuts aimed at Social Security and Medicare. My service impacted my career because I was just beginning to believe that I wanted to continue developing skills that would be useful to becoming active in politics. I met many wise and active citizens who encouraged and taught me practical lessons about politics and about my country. 
    Two years after my VISTA service, I was elected to the first of three terms I served as a Dayton City Commissioner.

  • Alumni story
    Lesley Hanson 1983 1984 New Haven

    I worked as a VISTA volunteer from 1983-1984 and then again from 1989-1992. I enjoyed my 4 1/2 years of service working for VISTA. I worked for many non-profit organizations in the clerical position. I would answer telephones, alphabetize personnel records and telephone books, etc. I also attended many VISTA In-Service training. 

    The non-profit organizations that I worked for are as follows: 
    * Umoja Juvenile Program 1983-1984 
    * Training and Employment Institute 1989-1990 
    * Youth-At-Risk 1990-1991 
    * Urban League of Greater New Haven 1991-1992 
    I really enjoyed my years of Service working for VISTA and I also received a certificate of Appreciate from President Bush in celebrating VISTA's 25th anniversary.

  • Alumni story
    Jackie Garvey 1985 Indianapolis

    I began as a VISTA in 1985 with the Indiana Juvenile Justice Task Force (IJJTF) where I researched effective prevention initiatives for youth. That work led to meeting many city and state leaders in juvenile justice, education, and non-profit organizations. The IJJTF hired me after my year as a VISTA as a program coordinator for a drug and alcohol prevention program for teens. 

    This began 13 years of youth work in school-based service-learning programs, both as a staff and as a consultant. I helped direct two AmeriCorps programs in Indiana and my son was an AmeriCorps member in 2000!  Following my work in service-learning, I began working on behalf of families and education. I have been the Executive Director of The Indiana Partnerships Center (Indiana's Parent Information & Resource Center) since 2001. My year as a VISTA changed my life and led me to years of rewarding work and service to youth and families!! 

View Alumni Stories by Decade