Friday, September 16, 2016

Meet the VISTAs

VISTA (Volunteers In Service To America) dates back to 1965 after being introduced by John F. Kennedy in 1963. It was focused on a single goal: to fight poverty in America. In 1993, VISTA joined forces with AmeriCorps to supplement it's State & National and FEMA Corps Service Programs. Every year, more than 7,000 Americans commit to a year of service to overcome poverty. They come from all walks of life and serve in more than 1,200 nonprofit and government organizations across the nation.

Unlike the AmeriCorps State & National members, VISTAs do not provide direct services such as tutoring children, building homes, or working with clients. Rather, their efforts are focused on capacity building projects such as developing marketing strategy and program development support for their organizations. The goal of VISTA is to strengthen an organization in a way that the programs developed can continue to serve the needs of the community once the VISTA's service term is complete.

Origin SC is in it's 8th year of being a VISTA host site. Our past VISTAs have played a vital role in the administration of our annual Money Rocks event, the development of our Student Debt Solutions programs, and our organization rebranding this year. For the 2016-2017 program year, we are fortunate to welcome four VISTAs. Read more about each below:

Gabri-EL Dawkins, Technology & Design Coordinator

Education: BA in Media Arts from the University of South Carolina - Columbia

Hometown: Charleston, South Carolina

Why she chose VISTA: chose to serve a year with VISTA because I enjoyed my previous service year as a CAC AmeriCorps member in Knoxville, TN and thought, why not give it another year? Plus, with my position as the Technology & Design Coordinator, I get to fully utilize my degree!

Favorite Hobby: I love to read and write (poetry and fiction). I also enjoy singing, illustrating, photography, and film making.

One place she would like to visit: One place I would like to visit is Japan. My cousin works as a recruiting officer for the Navy and she’s been to Japan at least two or three times now, and loves it every time. She highly recommends visiting.

Nana Opoku, Community Outreach Coordinator

Education: BA in Political Science/ Pre-Law, Minor in Sociology from Georgia College and State University

Hometown: Born in Accra, Ghana; spent most of my time in the US around the Atlanta, Georgia area

Why she chose VISTA: I chose to do VISTA because I have an interest in public/social policy. I hope to work in that field someday, and I wanted to see the ways that nonprofits operate.

Favorite Hobby: I love literature & poetry, and I write as much as I can. I also love reading. My free time is usually spent in bookstores or shopping; I love thrifting. I also enjoy reading up on the latest political news; this election year has been a fun one for me!

Someone she admires: Someone I admire would be Dr. Maya Angelou. She dealt with some awful situations and was surrounded by horrible people, but she made something of herself through poetry, dance, writings, and civil rights activism. I think that to be able to do that as a black woman is pretty awesome.

Jennifer Wallace, Marketing Coordinator

Education: Bachelor of Business Administration in Marketing from Georgia Southern University
Master of Business Administration from The Citadel

Hometown: Charleston, South Carolina

Why she chose VISTA: I chose to do VISTA because I wanted to learn more about my career field while making a difference in the community.  

Favorite Hobby: In my free time, I like crafting, cooking, volunteering, traveling, and catching up with family and friends. 

Someone she admires: I admire and respect my father because of his dedication, consistency, and patience while raising me. From listening to his lectures and observing his behavior, he has influenced my choices and personality in so many ways. My dad is one of the hardest working people I know, and I strive to do my best in everything because of him.

Katie Barnes, Public Relations Coordinator

Education: BA in Business Administration from MidAmerica Nazarene University, Minor in Social Justice

Hometown: Atchison, Kansas

Why she chose VISTA: I chose to do VISTA because I am passionate about community/economic development and poverty alleviation and wanted to gain experience in the nonprofit field.

Favorite Hobby: I LOVE music! I attend a variety of concerts (from the Gaither Vocal Band to Fall Out Boy to Pentatonix). I enjoy singing as well as playing guitar, piano, clarinet, and saxophone. 

Top Bucket List Item: This is not a specific item, but I want to travel to a variety of places, meet a variety of people, and experience a variety of things. Before this time last year, I had only been out of the Midwest a few times. Coming here has shown me that there is much more to the world than the small town that I grew up in.

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