Celebrating GENaustin’s ’12-’13 AmeriCorps VISTAs, Celeste and Claudia
As we say goodbye to Claudia and Celeste, GENaustin’s wonderful AmeriCorps VISTAs for the 2012-2013 year, we decided to ask about their term of service and what they learned.
You’ve served as AmeriCorps VISTAs with GENaustin for a year. How has the experience been what you expected, and how has it been different?
Celeste: I expected to love my experience and learned a lot because I cared so deeply for GENaustin’s mission, but I did not expect to come away with such close bonds with my co-workers, volunteers and the girls I served.
Claudia: When I applied, I knew that it would be a great experience, but I had no idea how big of an impact it would have on my life. I knew I would gain important skills, but never imagined the true scope of what they would look like. It has been a total privilege to work in an environment that is challenging in the most supportive way with a team atmosphere that also allows for room to grow and be creative.
Can you tell me about some of your most memorable experiences working with girls?
Celeste: I had the honor of co-facilitating a clubGEN at Fulmore Middle school this year with Claudia, and I truly cannot explain how profoundly that experience has changed my life. I learned so much about what it’s like to be a girl today, enjoyed some intense dance parties and laughed until I cried on multiple occasions. Being able to give girls a safe space to really think and discuss everything from talking to your crush, getting your period, standing up for yourself, and breaking down stereotypes was an amazing experience.
Claudia: There are so many! From 4th graders being able to come to the conclusion that photoediting is a way to sell more products to small dance parties… I got to work with all of the programs and in every single one, there was something that inspired me deeply. Many of my favorite memories are from the club I was able to run all year- the girls started out as scared 6th graders and I was able to watch them grow and be a part of their journey. This summer, three of them came back to be a part of a panel for girls transitioning into middle school and I realized I had watched them grow into these amazing and bright young ladies with great hearts. One of the girls told me that I was like an older sister to her and, of course, I cried. Every time one of these girls thanked me, I felt recharged because I felt like thanking all of them for allowing me into their world.
What are you going to take away with you from this year?
Celeste: I am going to take away a tremendous amount of new knowledge and skills, a new found passion for girls issues, and some pretty amazing friendships.
Claudia: So much. I’m taking away a sense of clarity and fulfillment in knowing that I’m in the exact field I want to be in. I take away a sense of family that I gained from working with such an amazing team of women. I’m taking away new best friends and mentors. I’m taking away so much inspiration from all of the girls I was lucky enough to work with. I’m taking away a sense of personal empowerment, confidence and self-love that I haven’t been able to get anywhere else. For the first time in my life, I get to take a step forward in my life with the true belief that I can achieve anything I want and be successful, happy and make a difference in the world. That’s the power of GENaustin.
What would you say to someone else who is considering serving as an AmeriCorps VISTA with GENaustin?
Celeste: Without a doubt, GENaustin is the best placement someone doing a Americorps term of service can have.
Claudia: I would more than recommend it. It’s a privilege to get to work with these women and get to be a part of girls’ lives in this capacity. You will empower and feel so empowered!
VISTA gathering! GENaustin’s 2011 Americorps VISTAs with our 2012 Summer VISTAs and 2012-2013 VISTAs! Thanks to Americorps for our wonderful VISTAs and for helping GENaustin serve so many girls in our community!
Thank you to Claudia and Celeste for their dedication, enthusiasm, and devotion to improving the lives of girls in Austin. We are so happy that you are staying on at GENaustin as Campus Coordinators, and know you have big things ahead of you!