Why I Love Being a VISTA Leader


No, it's not the fame...or fortune...or the layers of paperwork and bureaucracy. It's definitely NOT trying to explain VISTA to someone for the upteth time. It was the moment several times this week, after what seemed like the millionth voicemail I left for a VISTA, when a VISTA picked up the phone and said "HEEEaaaaYyyah! Danielle! What is UP?"

When I could crack yet another joke with Tony about the heat in Arizona. When When Richard says "Oh Gina, it's Danielle." (implying it'll be a while because he has lots to tell me) and Sarah yells in the background. When Elisha's answering the main phone for TINCAN and in the middle of writing a grant, but takes five minutes to explain to me why she's excited about her new project finally getting started. When Naomi said even though the school she worked with was disorganized, she was glad she went and finished the workshop. When Lauren B. and I get so chatty that we're talking about mothers suing food companies to stop advertising to their kids. Even when Will blogs "Hey Danielle here's your links."

When, in the middle of my own crazy day, one VISTA calls to me this amazing story. When she was at her lowest, thinking that her work didn't affect anything. And one kid walks up to her and says "I don't get what your job is." Sigh. But then the youth listed out all the things he say her doing over the past year, then said "All that wouldn't have happened without you." That's all it took to make this VISTA want to stay and keep working. After delays, disappointments and people quitting, she could say to me "Danielle, I'm good...I'm alright. I'm going to keep going strong."

After 11 months of calling folks, I was actually glad that I had did it. Even when the stories were sad, or the frustration level was nuts, or even when Gareth and Dan Chen only answer my questions with one word answers. :) I'm privileged enough to get monthly updates from a group of dedicated people trying to create change at the ground level. It's like my own social change reality show....but about people I actually care what they do (instead of freaks like Paul Abdul or Scot Bao).

Peter Miller said at the last PSO, "The Project is entering an era where the direction that the work is taking is really being fueled by the VISTA Leaders." We made a very conscious decision last fall to be different kinds of VISTA Leaders than the Project had seen before. We wanted to establish both one-on-one and group relationships with VISTAs that were real and lasted all year. So that VISTAs weren't just calling us when their paychecks didn't show up or their supervisor was driving them nuts, but they blogged or shared stories of small but meaningful triumph.

SO I loved being a VISTA Leader because I got to hear it all.

Oh and it's also when the Robot landed on the moon (thanks Paul).

Comment from Morgan Sully on July 23, 2007 - 1:29pm

Part of it is because you're such an awesome Leader to report to. And I don't mean just VISTA Leader, but LEADER leader. OF COURSE, you'd get into MIT. jeez.

Comment from Naomi Jimenez on July 23, 2007 - 9:29pm

Hey Danielle,

I'm glad you loved being a VISTA leader! It was good having you as a leader even though we didn't talk as much due to our conflicting schedules. Good luck to you and I hope to see this very blog as a digital story one day! ;)



Comment from Kelli Williams on August 2, 2007 - 10:45am

That's a very cool post Danielle!

Comment from Diana Boro on August 14, 2007 - 10:13am

Hey Danielle, so awhile back I replied to the comment that you left on one of my posts...but I replied to it on MY page, not yours. Hahaha....yup, that's why I'm a ctc VISTA. Because the T standds for technology and I obviously have mastered all things technological.

Anyway, here's the comment:

Thanks for the reassurance...actually just a few weeks later I really feel like part of the staff. As far as the living situation goes, I'm still living with the director of zumix, but it's been pretty good so I haven't been desperate to look for anything else.

The Concerts are every Tuesday and Sunday from 5-7 pm. The Sunday ones are better because they're in Pier's Park, which is beautiful. The tuesday concerts are right across from the Maverick Square t station.

Will I see you on Tuesday at the Mass area meeting?


Comment from Anita Lie on November 1, 2007 - 1:52pm

Hi Danielle, Morgan mention to me that you worked with people who are deaf. I am trying to figure out how to teach someone how to use the computer, but its hard because hes' also non-literate. Do you have any advice on what I can do or how to teach. Thanks