Building and Strengthening Neighborhoods and People

AmeriCorps*VISTA Spotlight: Rebecca Seel

Rebecca2Rebecca Seel relocated from New York to serve as the GHCC-Sponsored VISTA at GapBuster, Inc. in Prince George’s County. Read about how opportunities she received as a teenager inspired her desire to serve teens in Maryland.

When the chance to do something great presents itself, you don’t ignore it. I don’t really believe in luck or fate, but I believe in opportunities. After I obtained my Masters Degree in journalism from Syracuse University, I found myself in a clichéd quarter-life crisis – wondering where to go and what to do with myself during a period of time of uncertainty and unfulfillment.

I became acquainted with AmeriCorps through a group of friends I met at a volunteer fair in my area. They encouraged me to apply, and by the end of that very day I had filled out the online application. I had only been to Maryland once or twice, and when I applied through Greater Homewood the only things I thought I knew about Baltimore were what I had seen on The Wire (yes, feel free to roll your eyes). But, when the opportunity for VISTA lay in front of me, I felt the call to service. VISTA was a way for me to use my skill set in the service of others.

I serve at GapBuster Incorporated in Riverdale, MD, an ambitious and expanding organization. The staff and executive director‘s excitement for their work is infectious, and I accepted the VISTA position there to be a part of a growing, youth-centric organization. After a full year of service I hope to leave behind a sustainable communications infrastructure for GapBuster, enhancing their social media and website so that the organization can continue to attract students to the program and interest throughout the community.

My favorite part of my service is the students. There are such bright minds and Rebecca1vibrant personalities here. It is inspiring to watch them find strengths within themselves and realize that a future they did not have access to before is within their grasp. To be honest, I just like sitting around and talking to them. I always laugh when they tell me that they weren’t sure about me at first because of my whiteness but that I turned out to be ‘okay.’

I never had an idea of what I wanted to do when I grew up, but it was through a wonderful Teen Apprentice program at my local museum during high school that I grew interested in nonprofits. The director of education led the program with enthusiasm, presenting fascinating activities every week. The Teen Apprentice program has since been cut, but its impact on my life is indelible; to give young people the opportunity to blossom is a keen interest of mine. Seeing a teenager become inspired, enabling youth to walk forward in life on avenues that were previously closed to them, just helping a fellow human discover a passion or learn a new thing are why I thank AmeriCorps for instilling in me a desire to serve, and serve faithfully, the people in my community and my country.

Are you interested in serving a year as a GHCC-Sponsored VISTA member? We’re recruiting now for our 2014-2015 cohort! Check out our website for information about how to apply and to see what positions are available.

Neighborhood Institute Workshop Spotlight – Youth Development

nawalNawal Rajeh of By Peaceful Means will lead an interactive workshop session that shows how neighborhood youth can be an asset for you community. The session will include common strategies for dealing with youth and brainstorm ways to involve teens in local problem solving.

Tell us about your background and why you chose to lead this particular workshop?

I am an educator and community activist who is passionate about the need for a rising role of youth as leaders in the community. I have been part of running a Peace Camp in Baltimore City for the past 7 years and through that experience have become more inspired and energized by the our youth’s ability to turn ideas into action. They never cease to amaze me and I hope that they will continue to effect change in their communities and be supported with larger roles and resources to continue being change agents.

What do you hope participants will gain from attending your workshop? What actions will they be more prepared to take?

My hope is that those attending my workshop will become inspired by the realities of what youth have to offer our communities through their energy, passion, and work for social change. We will learn together to see youth as innovators and brainstorm ways for their greater involvement and leadership on the most pressing issues facing our communities.

Why do you love most about living in Baltimore?

I moved to Baltimore in 2006 as a Jesuit Volunteer and fell in love with the city. Though I no longer live in Baltimore, it is still one of my favorite cities. There is a sense of community in Baltimore that is unmatched in other places. There are issues, and there are people everywhere willing to do the hard work to improve their communities. Plus there really is something about Baltimore that makes it “Charm City” that is difficult to express with words!

GHCC is pleased to serve as the fiscal sponsor for By Peaceful Means.  During its 2013 summer Peace Camp, By Peaceful Means provided positive programming in peace-building and conflict resolution for 30 youth in Baltimore City.

Tickets to the 7th Neighborhood Institute are sold out. If you would like to be added to the waiting list please email Emma Simpson at with the subject line “Neighborhood Institute Waiting List”