On Community by Amelia Huba

February 10, 2023

Reading through the archives of MTCC blog posts, there is a stark theme of loneliness/lack of community/feeling unmoored. While AmeriCorps advertises that its programs are community-based and discusses providing opportunities for members to serve in their own communities, every VISTA I know got a relocation stipend, and half of us are from the East Coast. The draw of Montana has pulled people from across the country to tackle pressing challenges that affect cities throughout America. Choosing to address those issues here is a testament to all that the state has to offer, despite the challenges that come with being here.

Being a transplant in a state notorious for its “anti-outsider” attitudes adds to the challenges inherent with AmeriCorps service. My New York license plate has been the source of dozens of dirty looks and honking horns, and the number of “Montana is FULL” stickers I’ve seen make it feel less than welcoming at times, which is bizarre in a college town full of non-Montanans. I’m very lucky to be working in a school district full of open-minded educators who care more about their students than about keeping Bozeman small. My fears about not being taken seriously because I’m not from here have largely been unfounded, and I’m glad to be becoming a part of this community. 

The outsider mentality combined with my introvert status and lack of skiing knowledge have all added to the sense of instability that many of us seem to feel. The living stipend is prohibitive for many things that seem to build community here (read: ski lessons). I can only imagine it’s even more difficult to feel connected in the more isolated service sites that don’t have other AmeriCorps members. I count my blessings that: 

  1. There are other service members here from a number of organizations (I know she’s not reading this but shoutout to Sophia)
  1. I have what my mom calls a “VISTA buddy” at my service site (appreciate you, Matt) 
  2. I’m consistently checked on by our fearless VISTA leader (love you, Robyn)

Sharing the journey and the struggles with other AmeriCorps members has made everything easier and I’m grateful that I have these factors in my corner. Finding my place in Montana has been a process, and while I can’t promise I’ll be joining the skiing clique anytime soon, I’m beginning to feel like I belong. If there are any prospective MTCC VISTAs reading this, I’d advise (from my place of relative privilege on the Montana VISTA spectrum) that finding community is about digging in and making it for yourself. The support we are tasked to provide to these communities is important and rewarding, and feeling like a part of the communities makes the experience better for everyone. 

Amelia is an AmeriCorps VISTA member serving with the Bozeman School District 7