From ACE to Americorps VISTA

Carly and Brandon on graduation day

My name is Carly Smith. I recently graduated from USF in May 2013 with a degree in Communication Studies and a minor in Public Service and Community Engagement. I participated in several of McCarthy Center programs including the Public Service minor, the McCarthy Fellows program c/o 2011 and the ACE program from 2010-2013. After graduating from USF, I decided to dedicate a year to serving my community of Sacramento, CA as an Americorps VISTA.

Americorps VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America) is a federal program established in 1965 by President John F Kennedy with the mission of fighting poverty in our communities here at home. VISTAs are placed at host organizations where we serve full time in a capacity building position. I am working for a non-profit organization called Mutual Housing California. Mutual Housing California has 18 affordable housing complexes throughout the Sacramento and Yolo counties. This next year, my goal is to build partnerships and develop programs for all of our Community Resource Centers. This could include an after school homework club, a women’s empowerment group, computer classes… the possibilities are endless!

I use the knowledge I gained through my time at the McCarthy Center every day. The professional skills I gained such as communication, building strong partnership, understanding how to set SMART goals and knowing how to work both independently and as a team are important skills that I use constantly. However, the knowledge I gained in terms of community development theories, how to best be an advocate and an ally and understanding the dynamics of privilege, power and oppression are invaluable to me as I work with marginalized communities throughout Sacramento.

I have been serving as a VISTA for a little over a month and although there are challenges, there are many rewards. Every day I learn something new from community residents and Mutual Housing staff. I am excited to see where this year takes me!

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