Tulane VISTA Blog

Fighting Poverty with Passion

Field Report: New Orleans Outreach

I find myself being asked the question “why did you choose to be an AmeriCorps*VISTA?” too many times to count.  I am always excited to answer this question.  For me, it is a question that has a unique answer each time, but it is always a positive answer.  At the Pre-Service Orientation, all the VISTAs were told that we needed to have an “elevator speech” (e.g., a two minute or less synopsis) prepared for anytime someone asks us what we do.  That I can do.  Why I do it, however, is so much more complex and would require an elevator ride that took a whole day.

Recently, I have been dedicating many hours to the upcoming KaBOOM! build at McDonogh City Park Academy.  This build is going to bring together many people from across New Orleans to bring the children of MCPA a fabulous playground that they deserve.  Although my main job on this committee has been to recruit volunteers, I have gotten to work in many other aspects of this project.  At first I was intimidated by the ownership that New Orleans Outreach allowed me to take in this project.  But this intimidation did not last long, as I recognized not only the trust but the support that Outreach gave me in this huge project.  KaBOOM! planning has brought out many new answers to the question of why did I choose AmeriCorps, such as I get to work with people from many different walks of life, I get to do something that is valuable to children (please see the picture of the very excited children from KaBOOM!“design day”), and I get on the job training in multiple areas that I do not think I would get from simply sitting in a cubicle at another type of job.

The idea of getting the training and experience, as well as the trust and the responsibility, that come with being an AmeriCorps*VISTA is an idea that has stayed strong with me.  No matter what reason I give friends for why I choose to do AmeriCorps*VISTA, they always respond positively to my reasoning.  I think being proud of what you do and why you do it is important, and having others respect what you do is important as well. 

Another reason I believe I choose AmeriCrops*VISTA is because I get to be an idealist-realist.  No one ever led me to believe my job would be a “cake walk.”  There are many things I see that should not still be happening in our developed society.  If I thought I could change every one of these problems in my one year of service, I think I would go out of my mind.  However, if I did not think I could impact a change, than I would have not signed on to be a part of the non-profit world.  I take great pleasure in the small differences I make.  I think working with children makes the differences all the greater.  Getting to witness and be a part of the changes is a reason I choose AmeriCorps*VISTA.  I like the non-profit world and I believe I fit well into it. 

I am glad I am part of the “education evolution.”  Although much of my college days were spent studying environmental issues, I did spend time studying issues in the education system.  I never thought I would find myself in the school system, but I really love it.  Yes, there are many injustices in the New Orleans school system and I do not ever want to turn a blind eye to these issues.  However, I did not sign up for AmeriCorps*VISTA to only find negatives.  Just this past month, I got to go to New Orleans Science and Math Academy High School to see the premier screening of the Oprah Winfrey show.  This episode highlighted Sci Academy’s remarkable academic achievements and rewarded the school with one million dollars!  I was so excited for the school and proud of New Orleans Outreach’s partnership with Sci Academy. 

Getting to be a part of the solutions is why I continue to enjoy being an AmeriCorps*VISTA. -Elizabeth “Betsy” Lopez, AmeriCorps VISTA

Visit New Orleans Outreach, to learn more about the Outreach program and volunteer opportunities in your area.


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Notes from the field from the AmeriCorps VISTA team at Tulane University.


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