Only one week away from having three months left in my AmeriCorps VISTA service term, I have begun to see positive results with growing membership capacity at my service site, the Montana College Attainment Network. Unlike other service members working in the nonprofit educational sector, my role does not involve any sort of direct service. I do not help students and parents navigate the obstacles of filling out the FAFSA or Pell Grant, encourage underserved Montanans to join the three programs that make up the Federal Organization known as TRIO, or take part in summer trips that reward students who achieved academic success during the school year. Instead, my role is to raise awareness about my organization, get other organizations performing similar work as us to consider becoming a member, and find sources of revenue to keep our organization sustainable. While this work does not provide an immediate feeling of achievement that you would get doing a direct service job, it is just as important in the way that it enables you to build connections with stakeholders and shine a light on the work being performed on behalf of underserved Montanans.
Serving in the fourth largest state in the country, knowing where educational stakeholders are located and what demographic they are working to serve is crucial to build a reliable network. Research is strength, and knowing who to contact is my super power. While waiting to see if you contacted the right organization or individual can be difficult, helping your organization find an invaluable contact is a very rewarding endeavor. As the African proverb goes, “it takes a village to raise a child.” With three months of service left, it is my goal to continue researching organizations who would make excellent affiliates of our organization and continue to learn from individuals who I consider as mentors such as Amy Verlanic, Kinsley Rafish, and Zachariah Hawkins.