NC Afterschool Corps Reflection: Getting oriented, making a plan, and supporting Lumbee youth

March 13, 2018

Guest Post by Natasha Kinto

I am Natasha Jones Kinto (Lumbee), a Campus Compact AmeriCorps VISTA. My host site is The Lumbee Tribe Boys & Girls Clubs and I am partnering with The University of North Carolina at Pembroke. I prepared myself for my VISTA service by reviewing my VAD, The Lumbee Tribe Boys & Girls Clubs (BGCA) mission and purpose and afterschool programs in general. I began my service year in August, just a few weeks after the new school year began. The Pembroke Boys & Girls Club, my home base, was getting a new floor so furniture was rearranged daily. The BGCA Staff were busy with daily lessons while preparing for an audit and the First Annual Lumbee Days held at the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, DC. I met the other VISTA who was also assigned to the Clubs, was given a work space and instructed to begin the work listed on my VAD; day one had begun. I had feelings of being overwhelmed with the large workload and unfamiliar setting but the BGCA Staff were welcoming and accommodating. My fellow VISTA and I settled into our stations and developed an outline and a plan of action.

The VISTA Online Orientation, including the video chats and assignments, were beneficial in showing me how to break my VAD objectives and activities down into manageable tasks. I was able to conceptualize projects and develop concrete deliverables. I focused on what I knew, which was making observations, interviewing staff and getting organized. I visited each of the seven Boys & Girls Clubs where I met staff, members and volunteers.  I gathered enough information to allow me to work independently and created online shared file storage for my work. I created a list of potential volunteers and donors for the seven Boys & Girls Clubs which serves as a current and future resource. I was also able to focus my attention on the larger VISTA mission of fighting poverty. I knew that my work should be sustainable by future VISTAs, BGCA Staff and/or volunteers with the goal of addressing poverty.

My once in a lifetime experience as a VISTA came quickly in September as I was invited to attend Lumbee Days in Washington, D.C. with the Lumbee Tribe and the Boys & Girls Clubs. I treated the trip as an immersion experience and spent five days and four nights with approximately seventy-five club members and thirty club staff, as well as local leaders. We rode buses, participated in a Wreath Laying Ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia and explored D.C. on foot. We spent two full days at the Museum of the American Indian sharing the story of the Lumbee People with the world. The D.C. trip allowed me to reconnect with former colleagues and make new alliances.

Many local leaders, educators, story tellers and crafts people have voiced support of the initiatives of the Boys & Girls Clubs. Through my VISTA assignment, I have gained first-hand knowledge of tribal government, including protocol and etiquette. I have learned of the many struggles that our tribal members face, such as health gaps, access to services and educational needs. The VISTA program has provided me with an opportunity for growth and personal development as I have worked to address poverty in my community. During the second half of my year of VISTA service, I will complete my VISTA tasks. I will also finish my portfolio project and presentation so that I may showcase my efforts and how they will benefit my community. With the information that I have gained, I will continue to provide the needed services to my community, even after my VISTA service year is over. I encourage anyone who is interested in community service to consider the Campus Compact AmeriCorps VISTA program.

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