VISTA Profile: Ruth Martinez (JASC)

By Ruth Martinez, AmeriCorps VISTA member with Japanese American Service Committee (JASC)

Americorps-VISTA-LogoI had no idea about AmeriCorps until my career counselor at Morningside College suggested to apply. When I started the AmeriCorps application process, my first thoughts were to re-establish myself at home in California or stay in Iowa. However, my search suddenly changed. I knew there was so much more out there! I was reminded of my spring break: my roommate and I took a trip to Chicago in April as graduation gift to ourselves. We traveled to different neighborhoods and I was curious to see all the different communities in Chicago.

As I searched for potential job sites in Chicago, I saw Advancing Justice | Chicago was looking for a Community Outreach Coordinator for the Japanese American Service Committee (JASC). This AmeriCorps VISTA position went well with the experiences I had gained in college, and I saw this position as an opportunity to share my study abroad in Japan with others. I felt empowered to break the bridge among Asian American communities as Latina. It was tough decision to make as a recent college graduate, moving to a new city. Yet, these wise words made a clear decision for me: “do something you see yourself doing in the long run. Don’t do something for the money or how good it looks. Rather, do something for your future.”

Now as I mark my third month as VISTA, it has been true roller coaster. I never thought VISTA would expose me to new aspects of life. As a VISTA you become motivated and challenged to try new things in an unknown environment. Your VISTA year might be the first position out of college. You have to make decisions that might be tough in the beginning, but you will start to see results slowly. You begin to accept change in your way and excited for small accomplishments. Then you know VISTA will be worth it in end.

I’m thankful for the good, bad, and ugly experiences I’ve experienced as VISTA. This experience thus far has made me reflect about last year. I’m truly not the same person I was a year ago.

AmeriCorps VISTA is a federal anti-poverty program that places members with nonprofit organizations for a year of service to help eliminate poverty in their communities. Ruth Martinez is an AmeriCorps VISTA member with Japanese American Service Committee (JASC). Learn more about the AmeriCorps VISTA program