Lessons Learned From Our VISTA Year

In the spirit of capacity building, and on the first day of our second program year, it seems appropriate to share some advice our first cohort wanted to pass on.

Kyle: (1) Meet with your supervisor regularly. If you are ever in doubt of where the project is going and what the end goal is, they should be able to direct you down the right path. (2) Use and abuse (in a nice way) Jeffery and Shannon. They have been through a VISTA year and have probably dealt with the trials and tribulations you are now experiencing. Think of them as the elders in your tribe; they may not know everything, but they probably have a damn good proverb to make you feel better about your situation. (3) YOLO…make the most of it!

Noe: (1) Learn to say NO! (2) When in doubt, Google it. (3) Don’t re-invent the wheel, unless the wheel is in need of reinventing.

Jessica: Have fun with the job, but learn as much as you possibly can within your first few weeks. You won’t learn everything right away and you will be overwhelmed at times, but always remember to keep your spirits high and use your fellow VISTAs for support. Only you, your VISTA cohort, Kristina, and VISTA supervisors know what it truly means to be a CSU STEM VISTA!!

Phil: Make friends, and mingle with everyone at events. They will help you out – especially your fellow VISTAs.

Jeffrey: Don’t be discouraged at the start if you don’t see the impact of your work. It may take the whole year for you to see how your work relates to the overall VISTA goal. Just keep at it and you will see your impact.

August: Have fun and be yourself.

Brandy: (1) Be a gymnast. Flexibility is key in being a VISTA. Work and life during that year will never go as planned, so be prepared for anything. (2) Be a ninja. You may not always get recognized for your work as an individual, but you’re a bad ass that gets things done even when nobody is watching.

Karina: (1) Don’t be afraid to ask for help. — You have two brilliant VISTA leaders, supportive supervisors, and however many fellow VISTAs going through similar struggles. Take advantage of this support network, they’ve got your back! (2) Remember me time — Your job is amazing and meaningful. But remember to spend quality time on yourself, self-care is vital! (3) And honestly, “Have fun and be yourself.” Maybe you can get a group discount for a collective VISTA tattoo outing 😉

Nina: Choose your battles wisely and always conduct yourself in a professional manor!

Jaklen: (1) It is never a win/lose, but always a win/learn experience. Give yourself some time to really look at the obstacles you are faced with, and let yourself learn from those mountains. (2) If you ever feel comfortable with what you are doing, then you are not doing enough. Let yourself run into the unknown and dive into experiences that scare your pants off – not literally (they don’t allow that type of behavior at Cal Poly Pomona). (3) Always stay 100.

Shannon: Living at the poverty level is hard. I won’t sugar coat it. You have to make tough decisions, and there will be sacrifices. That’s inevitable. But I can tell you it’s worth it. This is the single most fulfilling opportunity I’ve ever had – so much so that I’m signing on for another year of pinching my pennies. #pennypinchers4lyfe

Noya: The 40 hour work week is difficult and draining – it always has been. This can trigger attitudes towards work ranging from hatred and tedium, to fulfilling and rewarding. If you find yourself in the former, don’t be afraid to ask your community, supervisors, friends, etc. for help in making your work something that becomes essential to your personal growth as a human. We’re all in this together.


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