by Shanita Gilbert

When I first began looking into AmeriCorps VISTA for the Program Coordinator position, I knew from the overall mission of helping others and ending poverty that this position was a perfect fit for me. The passion and commitment that it takes to step outside of your own situation into someone else’s to make a difference, is unexplainable, yet so important because it is my opinion that selfishness is one of the reasons why so many people are living in poverty today. It is that same passion and commitment, that I saw when learning more about being a VISTA, that drove me to become the selected candidate for the position at Virginia State University, and what continues to drive me to keep going. I knew going into this situation that it would not be easy, and yes there have been trials, tribulations and rainy days, however, I knew that it would not rain forever. Working with the Algebra Project at Virginia State University has been an experience that I will never forget. We at VSU will break the cycle of poverty by enhancing and stimulating the minds of our community’s youth, through educational mentoring.

One of the great things about what I do is having a group of mentors around that are just as passionate about helping the community as I am. Sharing that common goal and drive, these mentors not only work with me, but they teach and inspire me. I can truly say that I am blessed and happy to be a VISTA because the experiences that I have with the mentors and children every day is unforgettable, and I know in my heart that I am doing something worthwhile. Every day while I am talking to the mentees and helping them understand their math, I feel at peace and overwhelmed with joy because at the end of the day, what I do is not for my good but theirs. Being able to help the program expand and build to its fullest potential is my goal before my service term is up. I will not rest until I am satisfied enough to leave the Algebra Project to the next VISTA. At the end of the day, the mentees deserve it.