They made us say it in training, “I am Kevin and I am an AmeriCorps VISTA.” Later we sit, stand, lean, in a hotel room, 14 of us packed in. Now that we are away from the conversations of poverty, and how the VISTA program was started by LBJ it stands for Volunteers in Service To America. We are talking about going out, boyfriends, musical talents, bringing our instruments next time, and I am bored. I stand up clear my throat and say “My name is Kevin and I am an AmeriCorps VISTA, and I need you all to shut up and listen to what I have to say.” Laughter ensues, the night goes on, we go to our sessions the next day.
I stand in front of a group of Resident Assistants in a classroom, glazed eyes of people who have been sitting in seminars all day look towards what must be the front of the room. I introduce myself, “My name is Kevin and I am an AmeriCorps VISTA.” More blank stares, “I work with the Community Garden,” some recognition and nodding of heads. The next group comes in.
I am in a classroom of students who will be engaging in service-learning this semester. “Hi, I’m Kevin and I am an AmeriCorps VISTA.” People nod and smile, they actually know what that means. I cheer shaking my fists in the air, I even do a jig, at least in my head I do. “I serve for a full year, living in poverty. This year I will focus on food access, providing those in need of food with nutritious options.”
It is hot out. I know I will have a sunburn tomorrow, she introduces herself, Lisa, remember she emailed you? I think I tell her I am an AmeriCorps VISTA, maybe even told her my name. We do a tour of the garden, a half acre of property where we generate approximately 2,500 pounds of produce we donate yearly. These words and others flow automatically out of my mouth.
As we pick Rattlesnake Beans I start to explain how I started a gardening business in New Jersey, it was OK, it payed the student loan payments. Then a friend told me about this position where I could work under a master gardener and a biology professor, bingo.
Now I am a month in and I am no longer just gardening, I am taking these organically raised beans and will be feeding them to 75 to 150 people on Monday night. Later maybe I will organize a fundraiser to purchase 2,000 dollars worth of seeds to put back in the ground next year. Then tomorrow I’ll run an educational workshop on extending your growing season, or about cooking a meal which is cheap, delicious, quick, and healthy. Afterwards I’ll need to apply for food stamps, so I can make the same meal.
My name is Kevin and I am an AmeriCorps VISTA