With my year of service as an AmeriCorps VISTA reaching its end, and the summer ramping down after another successful season of presentations made and books delivered to children and families, I thought I might reflect on my time with the Children’s Literacy Foundation, and what I’ve learned in the last year.
When I first joined CLiF, it had been three months since graduating from college. I had just moved in with my partner in a small apartment in Barre, and we had adopted a second tabby cat, Cappuccino. I knew that I wanted to continue my passions of writing and storytelling, but admittedly, with an English degree, it felt like I had come into the adult world none the wiser, and certainly with no real experiences to start off on the right, professional foot.
As I looked for jobs in the area, I came across an opening for an AmeriCorps VISTA member working with a nonprofit that promoted reading and writing for children and families. To say the least, this felt fated. Of all the jobs I had applied for, searched for, and been denied, the last I came across was the most perfect fit for my interests. After two brief conversations with Executive Director Duncan McDougall and the CLiF team, I was offered the position, and accepted excitedly.
As autumn rolled around, I found myself engrossed in the world of CLiF, and all the good they did. Editing videos of published authors, illustrators, and storytellers, I had the unique experience of getting to listen to hours upon hours of advice from people in my dream field, and take their notes to heart as I returned home to my own creative writing endeavors. I got to see the hundreds of photos from across CLiF’s Summer Readers program, and develop my communication and marketing skills by performing outreach efforts for our upcoming, At-Risk fall program. I got to know my team, and spent a lunch or two outside the office with them, talking about our lives and bonding throughout the COVID landscape of Vermont.
By the time winter came about, I felt like a real member of the team. Despite frustrations with AmeriCorps, everything that had to do with CLiF felt like a perfect fit. We sent out over 1,200 annual appeal letters, shared Christmas cards, and as one team member moved on to the next stage in their career, we welcomed another, Sarah Hall, into the CLiF family. All the while, I continued chugging along with outreach, event management, volunteer engagement, blog writing, and video editing.
This went on into the spring, and by the time we reached the summer, we were in full-swing with the Summer Readers program. I probably carried over 100 boxes full of books in and out of the post office over the course of two-and-a-half months! It did a number on my back, but my forearms have never felt stronger, and seeing the looks on kids’ faces as they parsed through the tables full of books made every trip worthwhile.
In all of this, I felt an invaluable sense of growth, both professionally and personally. Every member of the CLiF team, in one way or another, helped me to enhance my skills as a professional, as a team member, and as a young adult making their way in the world. Not once did I feel unheard, unsupported, or uncared for. Quite the opposite, everyone on the team made sure I felt fulfilled in my work, enjoyed what I was doing, and had the opportunity to try new things throughout my year of service. It may have been a temporary placement, but I felt undeniably part of the CLiF team.
As I begin graduate studies at Emerson College, while taking on a new role as a freelance writer for Tufts University’s Fletcher School, I feel experienced and ready for the next stage of life, thanks to my time at CLiF. By teaching me the skills needed to best utilize my talents, CLiF prepared me for what lies ahead. I further developed my passions for writing and reading, and cemented my aspirations to make a living in the literary world. I learned how to work with a team in a professional setting, how to share responsibilities and how to communicate and integrate a healthy work-life balance.
I can’t begin to thank the team at CLiF enough for everything they did for me. From snowshoeing to apple cider, to skills and lessons imparted, I feel unquestionably better off for having spent a year in Vermont. Wherever I go next, I know that I will never forget the people who helped set me on the path I so love out of college. And just as I look forward to keeping up with what CLiF does next, I hope to carve a path they can be proud of, too.
[All of us at CLiF are extremely grateful to Danny Giancioppo, for his many contributions during his year of service with our team! We wish him the very best of luck with his future endeavors. We have a current opening for our next AmeriCorps VISTA; please email Duncan McDougall for more information.]