Angela Mack is a GHCC sponsored AmeriCorps*VISTA serving at The Magic Johnson Community Empowerment Center in Bladensburg, MD.
I was born and raised in Washington, DC and educated in the Montgomery County, Maryland school system, where my Mom was a teacher. Education was always very important in my family and community, and I took it very seriously. Gratefully, I was an excellent student and have always loved to read and to learn in every academic and professional area. This was a huge part of what drew me to my VISTA assignment to develop a literacy program in a community where children struggle greatly with socio-economic success that begins with educational deficits.
After high school I obtained a Bachelor of Science in Computer Systems Engineering at Howard University in DC. I worked in corporate IT for 7 years. During the latter years I worked as an IT and professional soft skills trainer. I fell in love with education, training and working with people instead of machines. I moved on to work for the next 10 years at George Washington University as a Director of Technology Education, where I also obtained a Master of Arts in Educational Administration. After moving on to a government contract as a relationship manager for a few years, I was laid off and for the first time since I was 15 years old I was unemployed. While looking for work I began to expand my community service efforts until I was volunteering full-time. I became committed to using all of the gifts, talents, and skills that I’ve developed throughout my lifetime to serve others.
The VISTA opportunity came to me via email. The “job” description was ideal for me although initially I didn’t realize it was a stipend-based position. The more I found out about VISTA, the more I knew that this opportunity was a Godsend. I was especially impressed with the knowledge, experience, and passion of my site supervisor, Sonia Keiner. Her passion for community, sustainable agriculture, food & art, and so much more were impressive, and I was excited to be her student and mentee while serving as a VISTA.
My one concern about being a VISTA was my age. VISTA seemed to be an opportunity suited for students exiting college and considering graduate school or their career. As a 45 year old woman with two school aged children who is fully obligated to provide support for my home and family, I was afraid the commitment would not be a fit for me. I knew if I committed, I would not quit. But I thought the consequences might become too much to bear. I had to consider foremost the impact on my children. I am glad that I did not let my fear deter me from my VISTA assignment. There have been some tough financial times; but I believe that I am supposed to do everything I’ve done to serve as a VISTA. In return for serving with a grateful heart, God has provided for all of me and my families needs throughout the year.
During my year of service, I’ve assisted with developing a literacy program, recruiting and orienting families and students for the program, recruiting and training volunteers, and creating documentation so that the program could be sustainable once my service year ends. Much of what I already learned was applied to these efforts and the results were pleasing for me as well as for my site supervisor and the success of the program. I also learned a great deal about non-profit organizations and community engagement. Our biggest challenge was obtaining volunteer commitments. I love a challenge and learned a great deal about why this is an issue for many programs. I also learned about many ways to overcome this challenge over the life of the program. We began the program with only 1% of our goal for volunteer recruiting met. We ended the program at 85% of our goal!
The most rewarding parts of this year have been my connection to the community. I immediately fell in love and developed a connection with my site supervisor, families and students of the program, and many other community members. Experiencing living at the poverty level for the first time in my life had a huge impact and drew me even closer to the understanding the needs of the community. I feel that I’ve become a part of the community and will continue to serve in this or in other similar marginalized communities. The knowledge I’ve gained has helped me to decide what I will do in the next phase of my life to make a difference in communities in need.
“In all that I do my goal is to uplift, empower & equip communities in the creation & expansion of opportunities for themselves and others.” – Me
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.