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AmeriCorps VISTA Connects Students to Service Partners

by Dana Forde

Lacking significant support from family, then-high school student Amanda Parris didn’t believe college was an option. But her enrollment in a dropout prevention program led to night classes at a local community college and awakened a desire to give back to others.

And after volunteering as a tutor, mentor, and coordinator for community partnership and anti-hunger programs, Parris ultimately discovered a different kind of family in the national service community—the AmeriCorps VISTA program.

AmeriCorps VISTA member Amanda Parris is currently serving as a community liasion for engageDC at George Washington University in Washington, DC.“I realized it didn’t necessarily matter where I came from because there were so many different places I could go,” said Parris, who later graduated summa cum laude from the Richard Stockton College of New Jersey. “And now I’m helping university students open their eyes to the world of service and the world of nonprofit work.”

In her current role as a community liaison for engageDC, a service leadership program at George Washington University, Parris matches student volunteers with community partners and nonprofits throughout Washington, DC. Participating co-eds do everything from social media planning and blog writing to website construction and curriculum development.

While helping organizations bridge their own staffing and skills gaps, Parris enjoys learning about the general needs of the nation’s capital. But the most rewarding part of her AmeriCorps experience is helping students gain professional experience, build confidence, and hone talents they didn’t know they had.

“Not everyone is given the same opportunities,” she said. “But that’s the reason I serve. It’s not about giving anybody a handout. It’s about giving people the opportunity to do it themselves.”

In continuing her mission to provide opportunities for others, Parris often visits the same alternative high school that put her on the path to service. Instead of walking through the doors as just a former student, she now returns as a substitute teacher.

In the weeks and months ahead, Parris is looking forward to combining her trio of passions—service, human rights, and civil rights—as she finalizes plans to attend law school.

“I have a never-ending interest in public service,” she said. “I want a successful life of purpose. And thanks to my service in AmeriCorps I can have that.”

The Corporation for National and Community Service is celebrating the 20th anniversary of AmeriCorps and highlighting the theme of education during the month of February. For more information about the 20th anniversary, please visit the AmeriCorps 20th Anniversary Resource portal.

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