When I made the decision to join AmeriCorps this year, I made a parallel personal commitment to pursue growth and learning at every possible opportunity.

Outside of academia, a commitment like that has to be pursued with intentionality – it rarely happens on its own.  However, in the past month, my path has been absolutely littered with incredible learning opportunities.

Working for the Center for Family Services has proven to be a veritable well of experience and education from which to draw.  I remember being impressed with the organization when I was in the interview process, but in the last few weeks as a staff member, my respect for CFS has only grown.  I’ve chosen to highlight the Center on my ‘Organizations’ page, so be sure to check out what we do there!  Shameless plug aside, I’m truly learning so much on a daily basis.  The women in my department are non-profit rockstars and I am so blessed to be able to work under them and learn from them.

Another source of learning that has been unexpected, but no less satisfying, is the VISTA program itself.  AmeriCorps has proven thus far to be an institution that places a high value on not only the practical, but the theoretical aspect of fighting poverty.  It has been such an encouragement to realize that I’m not only being mobilized, but equipped as well.  In addition to the many resources made available to us digitally, my site has a VISTA book share that I have been happily delving into.  I’m in the middle of great read now – Whatever It Takes by Paul Tough.  Centered around the story of Geoffrey Canada and the Harlem’s Children Zone, it is an insightful look at poverty in America and one man’s strategic approach to fighting it.  You can read my full review, on my ‘Resources’ page.  

A more unique learning opportunity came recently in the form of the Justice Conference. The Justice Conference is self-described as a “two-day annual event to promote dialogue around justice related issues such as human trafficking, slavery, poverty, HIV/AIDS and human rights, featuring internationally acclaimed speakers and hundreds of humanitarian organizations.”  Though typically hosted by a West Coast city, the Justice Conference came to Philadelphia about the same time that I did, and through the generosity of a friend, I was able to attend, practically in my own backyard!  It was an amazing weekend, and what I was blessed enough to take in, both challenged and affirmed my thoughts on a variety of issues and ideas.

Now, nearly three weeks later, the deluge of information has had time to be processed and I wanted to use this space to highlight a number of key themes.  In the midst of my processing, I was struck by the realization that many of the prevalent themes at the faith-based Justice Conference were in tune with the same themes discussed at the largely secular Pre-Service Orientation (PSO) that I attended in early February at the start of my VISTA service.  Though I could (and at some point, may) write a whole post on the significance and implications of this parallel, for the time being, I am opting to simply address the themes themselves in three individual installments.  In the next two weeks, I’m planning to interact with three distinct ideas: 1) the fragile balance of justice work, 2) overcoming prejudice in justice work, and 3) the tedious joy of justice work.  Looking forward to sharing these ideas that have been running around wildly in my brain and getting some feedback on them, so stay tuned and get ready to join me in the discussion!


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