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We are Stronger As One

Los Angeles has seen an unprecedented groundswell of public interest in volunteering and civic engagement spurred by the current political climate. Angelenos from all walks of life are eagerly seeking opportunities to contribute to community organizations that protect and serve the vulnerable. At L.A. Works, we believe there is no greater expression of unity than an entire community coming together to support one another through expressions of service.

We are all in this together... the story of one AmeriCorps VISTA who has had an exciting year of service

Each Summer we say good bye to our outgoing AmeriCorps VISTA members, and welcome a new group of volunteer recruits to L.A. Works’ Volunteer Corps Program. AmeriCorps VISTA is a nationwide program that places volunteers in non-profits across the country for a year, there they learn new skills as well as providing vital capacity building assistance. We are just wishing our 2018 AmeriCorps VISTA volunteers goodbye and soon will be saying hello to the summer 2019 cohort! Nadia Rad is one of the outgoing 2018 group, we caught up with her to find out why she wanted to be involved and how her life has changed since being involved in volunteering.

What drew you to the AmeriCorps VISTA program?
I became interested in joining the AmeriCorps program when I was making a career change. I found myself working for a big company in a field that was unrelated to my interests and my college degree. I was beginning to feel like a peg in a wheel and I was ready to take on something new. I had studied Cultural Anthropology in college and I was interested in exploring social services. While searching for opportunities in the not for profit sector I learned about AmeriCorps. I was compelled to the service component of the work, and I could feel there was a great need for me to work towards the efforts of the program. I wanted to be helping others while I was finding my own footing in my career and ultimately that is what made me take the leap.
 
What have you been doing for the past 12 months?
I have been working as a Volunteer Coordinator for an Arts Education Non-Profit organization called, Create Now. It is my job here to manage volunteer artists by matching them with youth service organizations throughout the county. I assist them in developing workshops which educate underserved youth in settings such as foster group homes, emergency housing facilities, detention camps, and low income neighborhoods in a multitude of arts related disciplines. These classes help youth find their creative voices and develop a mode of expression through the challenging experiences they face.
 
What has been your most memorable experience?
At the end of every workshop, we host culmination sessions where the youth have an opportunity to showcase what they've learned. Time and time again, I have been able to see these youth show with pride and confidence their new-found talents, which never disappoints. I have also been able to see the relationship they have develop with the artists who mentor them. It is really a beautiful thing to observe how they interact with each other; to see that the volunteers are getting as much or more out of working with the youth as they youth themselves are. It is especially rewarding when our artists decide to continue volunteering with the youth so that the skillset, and relationship can become even more refined. I take great pride in knowing I have anything to do with that.  
 
Would you recommend volunteering as an AmeriCorps VISTA and why?
I would definitely recommend joining AmeriCorps VISTA. The amount of real-world training and experience I have had is invaluable to me and it also translates well into future career development. Though, not without its challenges, I think that this is something everyone could find some level of fulfillment in, and I would say that it has made a profound impact on my life. 
 
What has been your biggest learning?
My biggest learning has been the resilience of the human spirit. Throughout my year of service, I have met so many wonderful people who for one reason or another found themselves in difficult circumstances. The brightness that exists within people that have lived through such pain and darkness is so inspiring to me. I wonder often how people find hope, and I have found that more often than not, they find gratitude in their haves versus their have-nots. They have an incredible capacity for hope because sometimes, that is all they have. I have met children on this journey with incomprehensible understandings of life, they have reminded me that the world is beautiful and that in the end, kindness and goodness always prevail.
 
Thank you Nadia and all the AmeriCorps VISTA volunteers who have worked with L.A.Works and our community partners in 2018.

National Community Service