The Adventure of AmeriCorps

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Release Date: 
Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Grace, serving in New York City, explains how her adventure began as a VISTA. Beginning my VISTA year has been a surreal experience. As I am not relocating to take on this role, much of my preparation has just involved overcoming my own inevitable nervousness. My work site (Office of the Appellate Defender) is located in a bustling part of downtown Manhattan right near City Hall. Being an NYC native, the location and commute are the least intimidating parts of my journey. I’m coming into this experience as the first person in my family to have a “white collar” job, thus walking into this new environment forced me to confront my internalized feelings of inadequacy. Having only held retail jobs in my career, it was thoroughly intimidating to walk into this office full of Manhattan attorneys and have to navigate my way through their organizational structure. I walked in immediately afraid of not meeting their expectations, and of making stupid mistakes as a result of not being familiar with their workplace conventions.

Being personally impacted by the systemic problems of our justice system through the negative experiences of people in my circle of family and friends, I also felt added pressure from day one to make a substantial difference with this unique service year opportunity I have been blessed with. Fortunately, everyone at my work site has kindly helped me integrate into this new setting. Everyone I have interacted with in the staff so far has reassured me that just being myself has value, and that they don’t expect me to be perfect – they understand I am human, after all. Best of all, everyone has been more than happy to share their institutional knowledge of the criminal justice system, which has been incredibly empowering information to finally have access to. It’s an absolute privilege to get to be in this space every day, learning from these attorneys who work at the front lines of public defense. It has been a seriously impactful experience for me already. I am deeply proud of the work that my new coworkers do for NYC’s most underserved populations. I feel extremely fortunate to get to be a part of this organization, and I’m SO excited for the year to come.