Tina Olayimika is a GHCC sponsored AmeriCorps VISTA serving at The Intersection in Baltimore City through the development and implementation of a college and career preparation program.
My name is Tina and I am currently serving as an AmeriCorps VISTA with The Intersection, a youth advocacy organization that empowers Baltimore youth by giving them the tools and opportunities to advocate for themselves and their communities. While there are countless reasons I decided to serve as an AmeriCorps VISTA, I find my own childhood to be the most compelling. Having grown up in Anacostia, a once poverty and violence stricken neighborhood in the southeast of Washington, D.C., I know what it’s like to feel as if you don’t matter. The sting of inequity and the pain of invisibility was an all too familiar feeling. Though there was a lot that I wanted for both myself and my neighborhood, I believe the one thing I needed was someone who cared.
As a VISTA with AmeriCorps, I wanted to be that someone for kids who grew up like me. My goal was not to be a savior or a helping hand, but a partner and co-laborer. I was drawn to GHCC VISTA because it embraces this ideology and challenges us to not only serve in a community, but to embrace it, work to understand it, and become a part of it. I was challenged to not work for a community, but to work with it. This concept, though simple, heightened a new awareness within me. I could no longer think of myself as a lonely, brave soul who was coming to create change; I was now a small, but important, piece of a puzzle that was already working for change. I began to see my community not as a detriment that I had to work against, but an asset that I was privileged to work with. This newly broadened mindset led to a year filled with growth, both personal and professional. I made friends, formed partnerships, experienced new people, places and things. I was encouraged, corrected and challenged (all in love of course). Greatest of all, I was the opportunity to work alongside youth who truly care and are willing to work to make a difference in their community. They are leaders and conquerors, doing things most people never attempt and accomplishing things that were once deemed impossible for them. I am forever inspired and forever changed. I went into my year of service wanting to be the one person who cared, and ended up meeting tons of people who care and who have lit within me a fire that I hope to carry with me in everything I do.
Each year GHCC sponsors a diverse selection of AmeriCorps VISTA projects that build and strengthen vibrant urban communities throughout Baltimore City and now across Maryland. Our VISTAs develop K-12, college, and career opportunities for at-risk youth; create access to healthy options through community organizing and gardening; improve programming that empowers refugees and the homeless, and much more. Our next class of 22 VISTA volunteers will enter service on July 25, 2014, and we’re very pleased to announce the nonprofit, community, and city agencies where our incoming members will be serving. To learn about their service sites and projects, click here.