What you missed out on


The CTC VISTA Project organizes its own Pre-Service Orientation (PSO), which sets it apart from the majority of AmeriCorps*VISTA programs. Most VISTAs outside the Project are oriented through a regional PSO which is run directly by the Corporation for National and Community Service; the format and dialogue of these PSOs are quite different from the CTC VISTA Project's.

While digging through my files I ran across the packet from the regional PSO I attended when I first signed up with VISTA two years ago; my first year with VISTA was outside the CTC VISTA Project. I thought I'd write a post about the experience.

In my packet I have:

  • Diversity Bingo: As part of the registration process for the PSO, we were asked to submit a short biography about ourselves. This was turned into a bingo card with spaces labeled: "Drove across America", "Jewish", "Assisted in an adult literacy program", "Left-handed". We were asked to go around the room and find people with these traits and have them initial them.
  • Multicultural Competence Continuum: This chart explains that "developing multicultural competence helps you communicated and interact effectively and positively with diverse individuals and groups, in a diverse society". On the far left of the chart we have "Cultural Destructiveness: Making people fit the same cultural pattern and excluding those who don't fit -- forced assimilation. Emphasis on using differences as barriers". Followed by, from left to right, "Cultural Blindness", "Cultural Awareness", "Cultural Sensitivity", and "Multicultural Competence: Having the capacity to communicate and interact effectively with culturally diverse people, integrating elements of their culture - vocabulary, values, attitudes, rules and norms. Translation of knowledge into action."

There were about 150 VISTAs from all over the Atlantic seaboard at my PSO, which was held outside of Philadelphia in Wilmington, Delaware. We were arbitrarily split into smaller groups of about 30 to work with individual facilitators. During these facilitation sessions, we discussed where we grew up and how we defined community; this was contrasted against our facilitator's own upbringing. A lot of the discussion focused on defining poverty and "what it means to be poor". I recall that there was moderate amount of picture drawing.

The facilitation sessions culminated in the presentation of a skit that was to be created by our smaller group and presented to the rest of the VISTAs at the PSO. We parodied a hip-hop song--which one I can't recall--but something with a hook similar to "step up" and service-based lyrics to encourage citizens to serve their community.

The speaker at our PSO was the mayor of Wilmington, James Baker. He spoke just prior to our being sworn in as VISTAs. To paraphrase, he congratulated us on our commitment to service, but because of our racial and socio-economic backgrounds, our effectiveness would be diminished. There was a bit of an uproar over this; while I believe that Mayor Baker was originally set to swear us in, a Corporation officer did instead.