Name: Jake Williams
Host Site: California State University, Bakersfield (CSUB)
Alma Mater: California State University, Bakersfield (CSUB)
Major: English Literature
Background: Before I became an AmeriCorps STEM VISTA, I was a young man with purpose but without direction. Over the course of my life I felt that there was something bigger than myself that I was supposed to be a part of. I began working for the CSU system in September of 2014 in a student leadership role for Assisted Students Inc. (otherwise known as student government). From my time supporting and advocating for student’s rights and privileges, I learned that campus life can be very difficult and scary at times, but satisfying. I then moved to being a Resident Assistant for the Student Housing Department and there is where I found my direction. Although sometimes the position called for some unnecessary treatment, I found that being a supportive figure, in a service position is what my life centered around. I gravitate to the opportunities to make real relationships with students and wish to be a resource in multiple ways. When I found this AmeriCorps VISTA position, I had already truly felt like I found my direction, and it pointed to STEM VISTA.
When I saw this position become available, I did not see it as an opportunity, I saw it as a privilege and still do today. I chose STEM VISTA because of the potential for success that lies within the STEM ideology. My father is an engineer and for most of my life pushed me to become one as well. Even though I found my strength through helping others and through the mighty power of the pen, he tells me I’ve “surpassed the goal”. I grew up in poverty, and at different times in my life, was homeless; however, both of my parents pushed me to achieve higher education. In doing this, I unknowingly was changing the future landscape of my family and more importantly bringing the reign of generational poverty to an end. The support of my peers, my professors, and my guidance counselors, played in large part to my success and my strong professional commitment to combatting poverty.
Ah-ha moment: Although my VISTA year of service is coming up to the halfway point, I’ve truly learned a few things about myself I wasn’t fully aware of. I am resourceful and efficient. Over the last few months working in the Fab Lab, I have really surprised myself in terms of equipment and material usefulness. The first week in the Fab Lab major changes to organization and arrangement of furniture needed to happen to accommodate disabled students in wheelchairs and I was able to find new chairs from different places on campus that fit our needs essentially for free. In the Fab Lab, I used the CNC machine there to construct a podium for our presenters and trainers to facilitate from. For months our Interns in the lab had been needing a better physical position to lead a training course from to better support students through the sometimes confusing Fab Lab software. Many of the solutions I came up with in the Fab Lab were from ideas or materials we already had but used in a different way. Now, we are able to keep expenses even lower than had we needed to purchase outside material; like pre-built podiums, chairs, or tables.
Advice: I believe anyone that participates in an AmeriCorps VISTA program needs to understand it is the small victories that win the battle. Currently, I am awaiting a call from the locksmith on campus. The reason why is because currently on the weekends, the restrooms to the engineering building are locked. The Fab Lab is open on Saturdays; this inconvenience becomes an issue when there are sometimes fifteen to twenty fourth-graders in the lab on Saturdays. When we receive this key, there will not be a celebration, there probably won’t even be a high-five. But the next time someone needs to use the restroom on a Saturday, the option will be there. Please understand this is a restroom key, a very small item indeed. However, it is the small victories, that win the battle.
Legacy: What kind of legacy do I wish to leave behind? I hope to leave two legacies behind. As a professional would like to be remembered as a go-getter in situations that were landscape changes for the Fab Lab as well as minor changes. I’d like to hope that the
interns that work below me take tools they have seen me use in the work place and add it to their own repertoire in regards to professional development. I know I am a very influential person by nature and I try to use that by modeling best practices in the Fab Lab. I also make sure to transmit good soft skills in the board room for the interns or anyone seeking professional development. Also, before I delegate a project to someone, I try to think about what am I asking them to do, and the odds for success in their favor. At my site, I take great pride in the work that I have done and I still see potential even though I’ve implemented so many new best practices. I would like people to know that everything I have done so far, and would like to do in the near future, is all because of the CSU student experience and lack thereof. The second legacy is in personal legacy. On a day to day basis I try to make sure the environment around me is a fun, humorous, comfortable one. My legacy should include the way I facilitate my weekly meetings that always beginning with a “Joke of the Day” (which is usually the cheesiest joke I can find on the internet) and end with action items. Ultimately, I’d like my legacy to be recognized for the change it created in the lives of those I serve.