Fighting Poverty with Passion
I have never personally challenged myself as much as I did by packing up and moving to New Orleans for this VISTA program. For the past 23 years of my life I have been playing it safe and making decisions that my parents would be pleased about. It wasn’t till after my first year of VISTA that I realized I needed to start making more choices that were right for me and not necessarily within my comfort zone. I had been to New Orleans for a week prior to my position here. So I wasn’t TOTALLY unfamiliar with this place. I did make the decision to move down here not knowing anyone. It was a challenge the first week I was here because I had not met anyone including my roommate. In that week of being here I questioned rather or not this was the right decision for me. I am a firm believer in the fact that to overcome ones weaknesses you must challenge yourself in that particular focus. I have always had a hard time approaching individuals—any individuals. I find it challenging to take the first initiative. I have tested this weakness of mine in the past by taking positions that required me to do just that—make first contact.
I was a freshman seminar leader and chose jobs that made me have to approach people. People usually find it odd that I would have this problem since I am an open and outgoing person. If someone else makes the effort to reach out to me then we are golden. I am friendly, but it that first initial contact where my issue lies. So moving here with knowing no one and being basically isolated for a week challenged me to make that first initial contact and do things by myself. I found by doing that I actually enjoyed it. It was different going out solo and having to meet people completely by myself.
The point of this story is that you are going to face peaks and valleys during your year of service. The challenge will be how to get out of those valleys. Support aka friends! The great thing about how this program is structured is that it comes with a built in support system. There are a lot of VISTAs in the country that pack up, move to a new place, and may not have as many contacts as far as other VISTAs or people their age doing similar work. By coming in with a group is a great way to set friendships or supports from the beginning. I didn’t have this luxury so it took me a little more time. I don’t think for an individual’s sanity to fully rely on the Tulane VISTA program for the only friend base is wise. The people in this program are going to understand you as far as the challenge you may face in your job, but it is also important to make friends outside of the program. The program at Tulane is a great safety net and building block for your support base. It is a great way to make those initial friends and to always know that they will be there to support you.
Adventure out, investigate, and get involved. This is the perfect time in your life to try out things that you maybe didn’t have the resources before. Challenge yourself personally and career wise! Don’t play things safe. It is a challenge to get fired in this program so I encourage you to think outside of the box and do work that you are passionate about. Know that you will always have someone here that will listen and support you.
– Cassie Lemon, VISTA Leader, Tulane University Center for Public Service