VISTA Alumni

VISTA ALUMNI: Where are they now?

  • Graduate Programs in Literacy, TESOL, Social Work, Creative Writing, Marriage and Family Therapy
  • Law Schools
  • Founders of local nonprofits (Non Prof-IT and the Lexington Film League)
  • Staff member at a land-use advocacy organization
  • Program Coordinator at a museum
  • Montessori teacher
  • Practicing Family Therapist
  • School Library Assistant
  • Full-time staff members at the agencies at which they did their VISTA service

VISTA ALUMNI SPOTLIGHT

Name: Becky Plas
At what agency did you serve? The Carnegie Center for Literacy and Learning
What year(s) were you a VISTA? 2007-2008
Hometown: Columbus, Ohio
Current Town: Honolulu, Hawaii

What do you miss most about being a VISTA / what was your favorite VISTA memory?
I really miss being in the Carnegie Center itself. All of the light, the high ceilings, the marble–they made us a little happier and more productive as full-time staff, and I’m convinced that the people we served experienced a change when they came through the doors. I loved to stand at the front desk and watch their faces shift and become a little more relaxed or happy or thoughtful when they entered the building.

What VISTA accomplishment are you most proud of?
During the time I coordinated the tutoring program we moved the entire thing up one floor into a bigger room. I was able to do the initial organization of the room, and subsequent tutoring coordinators and volunteers have taken that new space and really made it shine. The students and tutors love it. I’m proud of having been part of that transition.
What are you doing now?

Just finishing up a Master’s degree in Second Language Studies at the University of Hawai`i.

What are your future plans (if different from current!)
I’m really excited to take the teaching and data collection skills that I’ve honed through my Master’s program back into the workforce. I hope to back into performing service or working with nonprofits.

What is one thing you learned / gained from VISTA that is still with you / helps you now?
The focus on facilitating sustainable change that initially drew me to the VISTA program still inspires me. Once you have had the opportunity to help effect lasting change, it’s hard to go back to thinking about a temporary boost that doesn’t have any way to keep its momentum.

What is your favorite book?
The Brothers Karamazov.

What advice would you give a current or potential VISTA member?

Well, one great skill for working in nonprofits is documenting services and resource use for outreach, fundraising, grant reporting, etc. But documenting everything isn’t feasible or useful. So, I would advise documenting strategically and coordinating that documentation with other members of your agency. And then keep an ear out to learn everything you can from those other members. And of course, have fun!

VISTA ALUMNI SPOTLIGHT

MauserName: Melissa Mauser
At what agency did you serve: Operation Read
What year(s) were you a VISTA? 2007-2008
Hometown: Crestview Hills, KY
Current Town: Lexington, KY

What do you miss most about being a VISTA / what was your favorite VISTA memory?
I have a lot of great memories from teaching English as a Second Language classes. I enjoyed getting to know the students and their families.

What VISTA accomplishment are you most proud of?
I set up some new tutoring sites for our Basic Literacy Program, increasing accessibility for certain disadvantaged populations.

What are you doing now?
I’m finishing up my Master’s in Social Work (May 2010).

What are your future plans?
I hope to enter a PhD program in the next year or so and pursue a career in social policy analysis.

What is one thing you learned / gained from VISTA that is still with you / helps you now?
I learned how to be flexible and adapt to organizational change. I also learned a lot about how nonprofits function and grow.

What is your favorite book?
Tales of a Female Nomad by Rita Golden Gelman

What advice would you give a current or potential VISTA member?
Have fun, get to know your fellow VISTAs, and take advantage of all the great trainings you’re offered!