My name is Rebecca Stewart and I am an AmeriCorps VISTA member serving at Street Sense as the Advertising and Communications Coordinator. One of my favorite things about Street Sense so far is interacting with the vendors and hearing their stories. I find it inspiring to witness them write so passionately about issues affecting their lives and the community. When I see them in the city selling Street Sense, it makes me smile because I’m proud to know them.
My path to Street Sense began in 2009 when I started volunteering at a domestic violence shelter to help families in crisis and make their stay at the shelter feel more like home. I led a weekly arts and crafts group, baking activities for youth and adults, and provided respite care for mothers. Volunteering led to full-time employment as the daytime Shelter Advocate where I answered the crisis line, provided information, referrals, and safety plans for callers, conducted phone screens for new intakes and provided orientation for new residents. This experience was eye opening and helped me better understand the trauma that women and children endure while escaping and recovering from domestic violence.
I enjoyed volunteering at the shelter so much that I became a mentor to a teenage mother living in a residential facility. Mentoring had its challenges, but one of the most important lessons I learned while being a mentor was to set firm boundaries while being a positive role model. After several months of hard work my mentee and her baby successfully transitioned out of the residential facility and back into her foster home. Our relationship lasted 18 months and I felt honored to watch her overcome difficult life barriers and become a wonderful and attentive mother as well as a strong and kind hearted woman. I am very proud that my mentee graduated high school and enrolled in classes at a local community college.
In August 2011 I began a year of service as a Literacy*AmeriCorps member at Byte Back, a small non-profit organization providing free computer classes to low-income DC residents. These classes offered adults the opportunity to learn essential computer and job readiness skills to help them obtain employment. Teaching computer classes as an AmeriCorps member at Byte Back strengthened my leadership skills, made me reevaluate my priorities, and provided me with an incredible growth and learning experience.
I re-enlisted for a second year of service as a VISTA member at Street Sense because I wanted to work for an organization dedicated to fighting poverty, educating the community about important social issues and empowering individuals to succeed. Although I have only been working at Street Sense for a few weeks I can already tell this is going to be an unforgettable year.