Name: Shannon Palka
VISTA Host Site: CSUPERB
Alma Mater: University of San Diego
Background: As an undergrad, the first organization I joined was Student Outreach And Recruitment (SOAR). Its mission was to make our university a welcoming environment for all students, and specifically for Under Represented Minorities (URMs). I also joined Alpha Chi Omega and Order of Omega, and served on the Philanthropy Committees for each organization. From there, I helped found USD’s chapter of Coaching Corps, a student-led movement to teach kids in underserved metropolitan neighborhoods teamwork and leadership, inspire self-esteem, promote positive peer relations, and encourage healthy lifestyles by offering free full-season sports classes. In the long term, our goal was to improve the educational and social outcomes for these kids. I served as Director of Coach Engagement for three semesters, before I studied abroad and passed the torch to my successor. My senior year, I had an internship with the City of San Diego Citywide Volunteer Office, where I spearheaded volunteer recruitment and public outreach efforts. I also had the opportunity to organize large events and long-term collaborations.
Why you serve: I decided to look into AmeriCorps*VISTA because I had the privilege of working closely with VISTAs while I was a part of Coaching Corps. I saw that they were dedicated, driven young professionals, committed to alleviating chronic social ills. I immediately pictured myself among their ranks. I was drawn to the CSU STEM VISTA program, specifically, because I recognized the impact the nation’s largest public four-year university system could have with the implementation of impactful poverty-alleviation programs.
Ah-ha moment: I am constantly surprised and thrilled to see how much support there is for our students. Whenever I work with our industry partners, their enthusiasm for programs like ours is palpable. They want to do anything they can to help our students, and they will make time around their busy schedules for them. It helps make my job both easy and exciting.
Future Goals/Plans: I aspire to spend my career serving students. Whether that will be in the context of a school or a nonprofit, I’m still unsure. The CSU STEM VISTA program is helping me develop the hard and soft skills that will make this possible, in addition to giving me valuable connections across the state.