AmeriCorps Alum Now Leads Program in Rancho Cordova
As Andrea Aguinaldo coordinates the region’s AmeriCorps VISTA program from her office at United Way California Capital Region in Rancho Cordova, she remembers why she chose to serve as an AmeriCorps VISTA.
“After I graduated from college, I was hungry to be part of something bigger than myself,” Aguinaldo said. “So I decided to join the AmeriCorps VISTA program, a national service project with a mission to eliminate poverty.”
During National AmeriCorps Week, and Aguinaldo and her colleagues at United Way California Capital Region saluted the 40 AmeriCorps VISTA members who dedicate a year or a summer to serving the Sacramento region.
“These young people dedicate a summer or a year of their lives to bringing change to local communities across the nation,” said Stephanie Bray, president and CEO, United Way California Capital Region. “Many are assigned to projects far from where they grew up. They gain valuable experience through their service to communities in need. Here in Sacramento, many nonprofit organizations rely on these dedicated individuals.”
The AmeriCorps VISTA program in the Sacramento region, as well as the service of this region’s members, is valued at $419,000. Members are serving locally at Communities and Health Professionals Together/UC Davis Pediatrics, Health Education Council, Lutheran Social Services, Opening Doors, PRO Youth and Families, Sacramento Loaves and Fishes, Sacramento Regional Coalition to End Homelessness, Sacramento Self Help Housing, United Way California Capital Region, Wellspring Women’s Center, WIND Youth Services, Women’s Empowerment and Woodland United Way.
During Aguinaldo’s two service terms, she served in a rural county in Northern California and in the greater Los Angeles area.
“My service years were defined by moments of persistence through situations that were beyond my comfort zone,” Aguinaldo said. “I learned how to work with people who did not always share my perspective, and I witnessed the harrowing and extensive realities of child poverty. For each difficulty I faced, I found that it was the community I served that ultimately uplifted me with its generous tenacity.”
“It’s more important than ever to make sure people know how incredibly valuable AmeriCorps VISTA members are to our community and the work of nonprofits in our region. Their service is vital to our community’s health,” Bray said.
VISTA was founded in 1965 as a national service program to fight poverty in America. In 1993, VISTA was incorporated into the AmeriCorps network of programs under the umbrella of the Corporation for National and Community Service. AmeriCorps VISTA taps the skills, talents and passion of more than 8,000 Americans annually to support community efforts to overcome poverty. Members make a year-long, full-time commitment to serve on a specific project at a nonprofit or public agency. They focus their efforts to build the organizational, administrative and financial capacity of organizations that fight illiteracy, improve health services, foster economic development and otherwise assist low-income communities.
United Way California Capital Region is leading the AmeriCorps VISTA program in the Sacramento region as part of its efforts to increase capacity at local nonprofits and schools for its Square One Project, United Way’s 20-year promise to significantly increase the number of local students who graduate from high school ready for success in college and beyond. United Way believes ending poverty starts in school and is working to ensure kids meet important milestones for success in college or career.
Now as Aguinaldo serves at United Way as the coordinator of the AmeriCorps VISTA program in the Sacramento region, she has the opportunity to encourage other members in their work.
“I don’t think the amount of service I do will ever equate to the meaning these communities brought into my life,” Aguinaldo said.