VISTA Spotlight: Lucas Martinez

March 16, 2020

On the heels of AmeriCorps week, we’re excited to bring you another installment of the VISTA Spotlight Series.  In this series, you will meet our current cohort of NC Afterschool Corps and NC Hunger Corps members, learn what led them to national service, and find out where they are serving and what activities they are engaged in during their year.

Come along and get to know NC Hunger Corps member Lucas Martinez a bit better.

Tell us a little about yourself and what you were up to before becoming an AmeriCorps VISTA member.

I am Lucas Martinez. I am the AmeriCorps VISTA for the UNC Pembroke Office for Community and Civic Engagement. I graduated from UNC Pembroke in May 2019 with a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration. Prior to my position, I managed the CARE Resource Center, an on-campus food pantry and professional clothing closet.

What drew you to national service and ultimately led you to applying to become a VISTA?

VISTA and National service is a great way to gain professional experience and skills prior to entering the workforce. It is a great opportunity to try new things that may be unfamiliar to you. For me, this was true. I am serving a small nonprofit that serves various needs in the community.

Tell us a little about your host site and the region of North Carolina where you’re serving.

My host site is the University of North Carolina at Pembroke. I work within the Office for Community and Civic Engagement, overseeing the CARE Resource Center. Alongside approximately 7 students we serve in the various programs that are hosted through the CARE Resource Center, including an adult life skills program, a healthy eating program, and more.

We serve the population of Robeson County, NC.  Robeson County is an area of persistent poverty, which means the area has been in poverty for over 30 years. Drastically, this means the population suffers from an array of various inequities, such as low wages, illiteracy, and more.

Since VISTAs are considered capacity builders, what capacity building activities are you involved in at your placement?

In my position, I have worked heavily on the services offered by the CARE Resource and the sustainability that has been a result of its expansion. From grant funding to donor campaigns, I have worked on various projects to increase the overall success of the center. As a result of the CARE Team’s work, we have had record number visits this year. We are very excited about this. In the future, we hope to expand partnerships that reduce waste and increase access to healthy and nutritional foods. I have created a network of restaurants to reduce waste on campus, including Starbucks and Papa Johns. In turn, we can provide more food for students in need.

What have you learned about yourself, so far, through this experience?

This service has been difficult at some points. I tend to be shy and introverted, but my work requires the opposite. I have had to learn to go outside myself to understand the needs of those that we serve, as well as to gather more resources for the Center. I have learned that I have a lot of varying skills that help me with the position that I am in, which continues to surprise me.

What are your plans when you finish your service year and what are your career aspirations?

When I finish my service, I plan on completing my Master of Business Administration program at UNCP. Then I plan on entering the nonprofit sector. I don’t know where exactly, or working on what, but I want to make a difference in the environment around me. I eventually want to become a professor to teach what I learn in various places. I enjoy working with students and hope to utilize this in the future.

Finally, in your experience, what is the very best thing about being an AmeriCorps VISTA?

The best aspect of AmeriCorps VISTA is the relationships that you build. I have met a lot of amazing students, faculty, and staff at UNC Pembroke. All of whom have amazing perspectives and opinions on the many social problems that exist. I hope to build more relationships that last well into the future. I am fortunate to be working under the Office for Community and Civic Engagement. The passion and initiative that exists here is what makes the experience great. We have the freedom to implement useful and life changing programs with guidance every step of the way.

NC Campus Compact VISTA members commit to a year of service through the NC Hunger Corps or the NC Afterschool Corps.  For more information about our VISTA program, please visit https://www.nccampuscompact.org/our-work/americorps-vista/ or contact Erin Odoyo.