Building and Strengthening Neighborhoods and People

AmeriCorps*VISTA Spotlight: Tom Pfeifer

561440_2995395563847_1260786681_nGHCC thanks Tom Pfeifer, VISTA Leader, for his year of service to our program. Read below for his recap of what brought him to serve and how he has grown personally and professionally through volunteering.

My entire childhood I grew up in Montgomery County, MD. To sum it up, I was raised in financial comfort in an exceptionally privileged area of the state. This is not to say that my childhood and teen years were all peaches and cream (because boy were they a struggle at times), but I never had to experience crime, drugs, poverty or any other manifestation of a struggling area. Of course, I did not know anything different growing up. It was not until later in life I realized my upbringing was closer to the exception than the rule, and I developed a desire to discover how my fellow Americans lived.

I think an unconscious need to break out of my sheltered upbringing planted the seeds for my interest in the AmeriCorps VISTA program. After college I was back and forth attending graduate school full-time and working retail/sales jobs to make ends meet. Extremely unfulfilling! Meanwhile my younger brother was volunteering with the Peace Corps to do HIV/AIDS outreach in Tanzania. Inspired by his adventures in East Africa and excited for the prospect of acting in service to others (instead of just toward a sales quota), I embarked upon a VISTA term in Baton Rouge, LA. After a successful year of service in the Deep South, I knew I wanted to leverage my new skills and knowledge. VISTA Leader would give me the opportunity to work on my own professional skills, while utilizing my acquired insights to help other VISTA members have a successful year of service.

My VISTA Leader year at GHCC ended up providing me these opportunities and much more. My year of service forced me outside my comfort zone on a regular basis. There were certainly challenging times adjusting to the role of VISTA Leader and GHCC’s work culture, but I believe I was consistently able to rise to the occasion to the best of my ability. In particular, presentations and public speaking have always been my bane, and facilitating monthly Professional Development Meetings for the VISTAs was no easy feat for me. However, while I doubt I will ever be an Abraham Lincoln or Barack Obama, I grew more confident as the year went on and am proud of what I accomplished.537313_2995374363317_76433113_n

Challenges, successes, and my personal and professional growth aside, I will always remember this year fondly, predominately because of the amazing people I was able to meet. GHCC really feels like a family, and you can tell that the people around you care. Then there was this VISTA class…a truly awesome and unique bunch of personalities.  I may be moving halfway around the world after my term ends, but I hope to keep in touch with this great group of people. Seriously people, keep in touch!

We will miss you, Tom!