Reflection: In-Service Training with AmeriCorps VISTA

Mar 20, 2024 | Career

March 10-16 was AmeriCorps Week and AmeriCorps 30th Anniversary! Me and 149 VISTA members went to Dallas for In-Service Training. Learn more.
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Last week was a double celebration as it marked both AmeriCorps Week and AmeriCorps’ 30th anniversary! I was fortunate enough to be flown to Dallas for VISTA Member In-Service Training where I had the chance to network and learn alongside 149 other VISTA members from across the country. I’m excited to share my experience with you, so keep reading!

Celebrating AmeriCorps Week 2024

“During AmeriCorps Week we recognize the commitment of the millions of Americans who have chosen to serve their country through AmeriCorps and AmeriCorps Seniors, and encourage others to follow in their footsteps of service.”


About AmeriCorps

AmeriCorps, a voluntary civil society program, offers an opportunity for people of all ages and backgrounds to serve their communities and country through various service programs. Every year, the second full week of March, from the 10th to the 16th, is dedicated to celebrating and recognizing the contributions made by AmeriCorps members and alumni. This annual event, known as AmeriCorps Week, aims to promote AmeriCorps programs and create awareness about the positive impact they bring to communities across the country.

About AmeriCorps Week

The second full week of March, the 10th-16th, is dedicated to celebrating and recognizing the contributions of AmeriCorps members and alumni, as well as promoting AmeriCorps programs and the impact they have on communities across the country. AmeriCorps Week serves as an opportunity to celebrate the spirit of service and civic engagement while also inspiring others to join in the effort to address pressing social challenges.

AmeriCorps Week serves as an excellent opportunity to highlight the spirit of service and civic engagement. During this week, AmeriCorps members and alumni are appreciated for their service and contributions to the community. The focus is on the numerous ways in which AmeriCorps programs contribute to national service initiatives, helping to address pressing social challenges and improving the lives of people across the country.

The event inspires others to participate in the effort to address these social challenges. It highlights how AmeriCorps programs provide opportunities for people to make a meaningful difference in their communities. They can engage in activities such as tutoring and mentoring children, helping to build homes for the less fortunate, supporting veterans, and even responding to natural disasters. AmeriCorps Week is a time to celebrate the contributions of AmeriCorps members and alumni, promote AmeriCorps programs, and inspire more people to get involved in service activities to address pressing social issues.

AmeriCorps 30th Anniversary

It is no coincidence that the day of AmeriCorps 30th Anniversary also falls within AmeriCorps Week.

For the past three decades, hundreds of thousands of AmeriCorps members, senior volunteers, and millions of alumni have continued to show the nation that AmeriCorps is not a moment, it’s a movement.


Let’s take a moment to recognize and appreciate the countless number of inspiring Americans who have dedicated their time and efforts to serve in AmeriCorps, a national service program that aims to improve lives and communities across the United States. These individuals, who proudly don the AmeriCorps “A,” have selflessly worked towards creating a better future for all Americans, both past and future.

For the past 30 years, AmeriCorps has been turning impactful moments into a full-blown national service movement, engaging thousands of individuals in meaningful and impactful service projects across the country. From disaster relief efforts to education initiatives to environmental conservation projects, AmeriCorps members have made a significant and positive impact on countless lives and communities.

As we celebrate this incredible milestone, let’s take a moment to reflect on the amazing work that AmeriCorps has accomplished thus far, and look forward to the continued positive change that will be brought about by its devoted members in the years to come.

AmeriCorps VISTA In-Service Training

This year, during AmeriCorps Week, AmeriCorps organized a two-and-a-half-day In-Service Training (IST) event in Dallas, Texas for VISTA members who started their year of AmeriCorps service between October and December 2023. The training was free for all attendees, and AmeriCorps VISTA took care of their ticketed travel, lodging, and meals during the event. The goal of the training was to provide the members with an opportunity to connect and learn from 150 of their peers from different parts of the country. 

The three-day training included workshops with groups of about 30 people on various topics, such as applying an equity lens to VISTA projects, developing resources, communicating achievements after service, and more. The training also included networking activities for members to explore AmeriCorps VISTA’s role in promoting equity, best practices in resource development and communication, and strategies for preparing for life after AmeriCorps.

Due to space limitations, only 150 VISTA members were able to attend the training, and I was lucky enough to be one of them! Keep reading to hear about my personal experience with IST. 

Want to know more about why I chose to serve with AmeriCorps VISTA? Check out the post in my journal.

About My In-Service Training Experience

When I was told about the limited In-Service Training opportunity, I knew it would be a great opportunity to make the most of my service year and give me the chance to meet and network with other VISTA members across the country. I couldn’t pass that up, plus, it was a free trip and I could use the change of scenery.

After finding out that I was approved for attendance, confirming my travel accommodations was a breeze since everything was covered by AmeriCorps VISTA. The only thing that I had to do was coordinate my travel from Lansing to Detroit since I was leaving my dog, Bandit, with my brother while I was away. A friend from college agreed to pick me up from Lansing, get me to the airport in Detroit before my trip, pick me up from the airport in Detroit after my trip, and get me back to Lansing. As it got closer to the date I was leaving, I was slightly nervous that I’d have some trouble since it was only my fourth time getting on a plane.

Day One: Registration & Welcome

Arriving in Dallas

My plane departed from Detroit at 6:45 AM. When I arrived in Dallas, after getting off the plane, I made my way to the Baggage Claim area per my travel itinerary instructions. When I got there, within minutes, I spotted a black man in a Premier Transportation uniform holding an iPad with a name on it. I didn’t see my name, so I was a bit confused at first.

After checking my email for the travel itinerary, I walked up to the man and asked for confirmation that he was waiting for VISTA members to transport us to the hotel. He told me that we were waiting for two other members to arrive before we would leave to head to the hotel. Once he confirmed, my worry washed away and I sat on the bench near him to wait. After waiting for about 10 minutes, no one else showed up. The driver made a call to find out if we could leave or if we needed to wait longer for the other members. When he got off the phone, he told me that the other members weren’t coming, so he grabbed my bags and we headed to his vehicle.

The itinerary said Premier Transportation had been pre-paid to provide airport shuttle service to the Westin Dallas Park Central Hotel for all members, so I expected to be in a bus or van of some kind. To my surprise, when we arrived at the shuttle, it was a clean, all-black Chevy Suburban, and I was the only passenger; the ride to the hotel felt exclusive!

Getting to the Hotel

While I rode to the hotel, I took the time to look over my itinerary to make sure that I knew where to go once I arrived. When I arrived at the hotel, the first thing I needed to do was check into my hotel room, and after that, I had a few hours to burn before I needed to be back downstairs for registration. The ride to the hotel wasn’t very long, it lasted about 30 minutes, in total. As I arrived, I saw several VISTA members trickling into the Westin Hotel; the check-in line was almost at the door. Even though the line was long, the check-in process went by quickly and I was off to my room within 15 minutes of arriving.

Registration and Welcome

When the time came to head down to registration, as I was getting off the elevator, I heard bustling voices from various AmeriCorps peers and staff moving around the area. With all the voices I heard, I mentally prepared myself for registration to take a bit of time to get through. Surprisingly, it only took about 5 minutes for me to get done. After receiving my name tag, notebook, t-shirt, and training workbook, I had a little over an hour to wait before the welcome and opening plenary started at 5:30 PM before dinner would be served at 6:30 PM. With so much time left, I decided to go back to my room to hang out until the welcome session started.

Around 5 PM, I and all of the other VISTA members started to make their way to the Ballroom for the Welcome and Opening Plenary. As we all poured into the room filled with dressed tables, we were instructed to find a set at the table that had our state or geographic area. After confusingly roaming around the room for a few minutes, I finally found my way to the table labeled Midwest. As I got seated, I nervously joined in the conversation with the other members at the table as we went around introducing ourselves and where we’re from.

After chit-chatting with the table for a few minutes, the session began. The opening plenary keynote, “Creating Meaningful Impact in Your Community and Beyond”, was given by Jamira Burley.

Jamira is a committed human rights activist and social impact strategist. Throughout her career, she has worked with collective impact teams in over 30 countries, collaborating with business, government, and youth leaders to create equitable change rooted in the experiences of impacted communities.

Currently, Jamira serves as the Worldwide Education Strategic Initiatives Lead at a major technology company and is a senior fellow at the Responsible Business Coalition for Justice. Her previous roles include positions at Adidas, Hillary for America, Amnesty International USA, the United Nations, and the City of Philadelphia. Jamira’s commitment to positive change extends to her roles as a Civic Media Lab Fellow at USC Annenberg Innovation Lab, Schultz Fellow at Summit, and former Director’s Fellow at MIT Media Lab.

Recognized as a Champion of Change by the Obama White House for her activism in criminal justice reform, gun violence prevention, education, and civic participation, Jamira has also been honored as a Forbes Under 30 in Law and Policy and a Vital Voices Global Leadership Awardee.

Hearing from the AmeriCorps leaders and listening to Jamira giving the opening plenary was inspirational. It not only confirmed my purpose behind joining AmeriCorps, but it also sparked ideas in me for how to make even better use of my time as a member.

Our First Dinner

Once the opening plenary was over, we were dismissed to dinner. Dinner was served buffet-style and there were two separate lines (with the exact same setup) to expedite everyone’s movement from the food lines back to the tables in the ballroom. For dinner, the menu included a mixed green salad, Dijon breast of chicken, seared rib tips (with BBQ sauce on the side), lightly creamed spinach, vegan Penne pasta with mushrooms and spinach, alfredo and marinara sauce, and Chef’s selection of desserts.

As a pescatarian, my dinner options were limited due to my dietary restrictions. Adding on the fact that I’m a picky eater, I had to settle for the few menu options available that didn’t include meat, which I assumed would be lacking in flavor. As I made my way through the buffet line, I ultimately chose to have the mixed green salad, vegan penne pasta with mushrooms and spinach, cheesecake for dessert, and lemonade to drink.

Overall, the food was what I expected, simple and lacking in flavor, but I am happy that I had something to put on my stomach beside the usual salad and shrimp cocktail that I’ve had at previous corporate events I’ve attended. I still think that the food and beverage selections for non-meat-eaters at events like this seriously need to be evolved; we eat more than salads and boring steamed vegetables. 

How I Spent the Evening

After dinner, the evening was free for me to do what I wanted. Since I knew that I would be in Dallas for a few days and wouldn’t have much to do with my free time, before I left, I sent messages to my uncle and cousins who lived in the area in hopes of seeing them. Once I got back to my room, I got a call from a cousin that I forgot lived in Dallas. My cousin spent a few minutes poking fun and scolding me for not letting him know that I would be in Dallas, he told me that he heard I would be in town from my uncle and my mom gave him my number to reach me. After catching up, he invited me over to his house for the evening to get a hot meal and hang out for a while. 

I had free time for the rest of the evening, after finishing dinner. As I knew I would be in Dallas for a few days with not much to do, before I left, I sent messages to my uncle and cousins who lived in the area, hoping to see them. Once I’d made it back to my room, I received a call from another cousin who I didn’t know lived in Dallas. After joking around and scolding me for not telling him that I would be in town, he mentioned that he had heard about my visit from my uncle and that my mom had given him my number to reach me. After catching up for a few minutes, he invited me over to his place for a hot meal and some quality time together.

A Family Affair

My cousin came to pick me up and took me to his house. While he prepared some peas and yellow rice to go with the grilled salmon he had made before coming to get me, we talked, reminisced, and laughed. After he got everything going on the stove, he gave me a grand tour of his home. After the tour, we made our way back to the living room where I sat back down on the couch while he checked on the food.

Once he confirmed that the food was ready, he gave me a plate and allowed me to serve myself as much food as I liked. He knew I was due for a good meal with some flavor to fill me up for the night. As I ate my food and talked more in between bites, he and his wife prepared a care package for me to take to the hotel, including a to-go plate of the delicious food I had just eaten.

By the time I returned to my hotel, it was already late at night. I had a great time with my cousin, enjoying good food and good company. However, I had a long day ahead of me for Day Two of IST, which was starting early. Therefore, I quickly took a shower, laid out my clothes for the next day, and went straight to bed for the night.

Check out some photos from Day One below!

Day Two: A Full Day Ahead

Making It Through the Morning

On the second day of IST, the events kicked off at 8 in the morning with a Networking Breakfast that lasted until 8:45. This was followed by a 15-minute session for Morning Announcements. I was pleasantly surprised with myself for being able to wake up and get ready on time, which made me feel quite accomplished. Unfortunately, I lost track of time and ended up being about 10 minutes late for breakfast. 

When I finally arrived at the Grand Ballroom Foyer, I quickly joined the line to grab some food. Just like the previous night’s dinner, breakfast was served buffet-style, with two identical lines to choose from. The menu included whole and cubed fresh fruit, water-based oatmeal with raisin and brown sugar toppings, individual peanut butter cups, scrambled eggs, the chef’s choice of breakfast meat, and breakfast potatoes. For my breakfast, I opted for fresh fruit, scrambled eggs, breakfast potatoes, and an Alani Nu energy drink that I’d gotten at the gas station on the way back to the hotel from my cousin’s house to drink.

The Morning Mingle

Upon entering the ballroom, I noticed that the table labels were different from the previous dinner. Instead of being grouped by geographical areas, we were now grouped by our fields of work as VISTA Members. Initially, I was slightly confused about which table I belonged to. After standing for a moment, I decided to join a table of four other VISTAs nearby. 

Since I was one of the last two people to join the table, I introduced myself and got everyone’s names. During breakfast, we talked about our interests and the quality of the food. I recall one of the women at the table commenting on the realness of the eggs and I couldn’t help but laugh to myself. Noticing her genuine confusion, I let her know that the eggs weren’t the typical cracked eggs she would make at home, but an egg product similar to powdered or liquid eggs that can be bought in larger quantities. Our conversation about the eggs turned into laughter and banter, filled with shock. After a few minutes, morning announcements began and all the VISTAs went to the hallways for a 15-minute break before heading to Workshop 1: Applying an Equity Lens to Your VISTA Project, which was from 9:15 to 10:45 AM.

Workshop 1 Reflection 

During Workshop 1, the main goal was to explore the concept of social equity and understand how my work as an AmeriCorps VISTA Member contributes to social equity. In this workshop, we learned about the steps to apply an equity lens to our projects and identify equity lens questions that apply to specific tasks in our service assignments. We worked together to practice applying an equity lens to some of our VISTA tasks. I found Workshop 1 interesting and enlightening. It provided me with new perspectives on how to approach the work I do as a VISTA Member and how to maximize the effectiveness of my projects during my service year.

After Workshop 1 ended, we had our second 15-minute break of the day. As we moved through the hotel halls between the elevators and bathrooms, in the foyer there was whole fruit, yogurt, and granola for us to grab as a snack before heading to the next workshop of the day. 15 minutes always seems to go by within the blink of an eye when you are on break; don’t you agree?! In seemingly no time at all, the break was over, and we all hurried through the halls heading to breakout rooms for Workshop 2: Developing Resources to Support Your Project which lasted from 11 to 12:15 PM. 

Workshop 2 Reflection 

The focus of Workshop 2 was on resource development, which is an important part of VISTA service that involves securing volunteers, in-kind donations, and financial contributions to support an organization’s mission or vision. During the workshop, we learned about the common motives for giving and practiced making requests for resources by reframing them as opportunities to invite others to partner with us toward a common goal. Although I found Workshop 1 more helpful, I still gained valuable insights from Workshop 2 on how to improve my outreach efforts for the Women’s Center. I can apply what I’ve learned in real time during the upcoming fundraising events and grants that we have planned.

The Afternoon Hump

After Workshop 2 ended, it was time for lunch and Mexican was on the menu! The lunch menu had sautéed chicken strips, sautéed tofu, fajita peppers and onions, tortillas, cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, sour cream, chips, guacamole, salsa, vegetarian rice and beans, and churro for dessert. Usually, I would be excited about Mexican food, but at conferences or big events, the options for non-meat-eaters (like myself) to choose from are limited. 

Whenever the menu is Mexican, I usually end up with only tortillas, rice, beans (and I don’t like refried beans), salsa, and the fixings. But this time was different; I had a to-go plate in my room with grilled salmon, beans, and yellow rice from my cousin’s house. I was excited to get to my room and heat up that plate! I knew it would be a much better lunch for me than the Mexican lunch buffet that was provided. Although there wasn’t a microwave or fridge in my room, there was a microwave on my floor in the same place as the ice machine. I was able to heat up my food and enjoy it in my room before heading back downstairs for the next workshop.

Workshop 3 Reflection 

After lunch was over, we all headed to breakout rooms for Workshop 3: Developing Preparing to Speak with Confidence which lasted from 1:45 to 3 PM. In Workshop 3, we learned about the four phases of speech preparation. We were given information on neuroscience research that taught us how public speaking can activate the “fight or flight” response, which is a natural occurrence. We also explored stress reduction techniques to counter that natural response. During the workshop, we had the opportunity to practice preparing for different public speaking situations that we might encounter during our service year. We separated into small groups and each practiced delivering a short speech to our peers with confidence and received feedback. 

Overall, I found this workshop to be the least effective since I have been practicing and applying public speaking skills since my high school years at University Prep. Public speaking is a skill that comes naturally to me because I already love to talk. As I was more knowledgeable about this topic than my peers, I was able to contribute some insights to help them during the presentation.

After the third workshop was over, we were given an afternoon break before the next one. As we walked through the halls, several people discussed what we had learned so far. Many of the members who were a bit older than college-aged (like myself) commonly expressed that the information given in the workshops only scratched the surface for us. There were bags of pretzels, popcorn, and vegetable crudités in the ballroom foyer for us to snack on. The break was brief, and we quickly headed to breakout rooms for Workshop 4: Serve and Thrive: Building Resilience as a VISTA Member, which lasted from 3:15 to 4:30 PM.

Workshop 4 Reflection 

In Workshop 4, we learned about the symptoms of compassion fatigue and the importance of recognizing and addressing them. We also learned about distinguishing compassion fatigue from burnout and explored strategies for building resiliency to combat compassion fatigue. By the end of the workshop, we had started creating a self-care plan that we could use to build resilience during our VISTA service year. 

This workshop was particularly interesting to me because I had never considered that compassion fatigue and burnout were similar yet different things. The workshop helped me gain a better understanding of how these issues can show up in our daily lives, and I will now be more mindful of them.

Time for Dinner!

Workshop 4 was the final session of the day, followed by a 15-minute break. After the break, we returned to the Grand Ballroom for a Networking Plenary, with a panel of experienced VISTA members who had served for over 30 years with AmeriCorps VISTA. The panel shared their stories from their past and current VISTA years and encouraged everyone present to lead with passion in their work. The Networking Plenary lasted from 4:45 to 5:30 PM and was followed by a strong suggestion to pack up and check out of our rooms in the morning before we headed down for breakfast the next day to ease the departure process. After all the announcements were made, we were released for dinner.

For dinner, the menu included vegetarian soup, vegan lasagna, lasagna bolognese, Caesar salad, grilled chicken, and a chef’s selection of desserts. I decided to have a cup of vegetarian soup, vegan lasagna, Caesar salad, and a lemonade to drink. However, I had difficulty choosing from the two dessert tables, as they both offered a wide range of options. I immediately felt overwhelmed by the amount of options to choose from and decided against choosing to give my brain a break. 

An Indecisive Moment

Noticing that I was stuck, two other women close by tried to help me choose by saying to just grab a few options to try. Hesitant, I reluctantly informed them that I didn’t want to waste anything, even though I knew from my previous food and beverage experience that it’d all be thrown away once we were done. To encourage me to choose, one of the women tried a dessert in front of me and recommended it, so I went for it and made my way to the ballroom to find a table, slightly embarrassed. 

For dinner, I found some VISTA members that I’d connected with in the halls and workshops to sit with. Once I took my seat, I looked around the table to see what everyone had chosen for dessert. Upon looking, I saw two desserts that intrigued me so I headed back into the foyer to look for those to try. Overall, the dinner selection was excellent, and the flavor was amazing. Although I was initially surprised to see balsamic vinaigrette drizzled across the top of the lasagna, it tasted great!

Let’s Have Some Fun!

As we were having our dinner, we engaged in conversations about various topics that interested us both in and outside of our VISTA commitments. Later, the VISTA leaders announced an AmeriCorps trivia game for a prize. By the time the trivia game started, there were only a few people left in the ballroom. At my table, there were only three of us left, as we had been engrossed in our conversation. We decided to form a team and participate in the trivia game for an unknown prize as Team GLO. 

During the game, we lost a member, but another member and I stayed and played until the end. Although we didn’t secure the first position, we won the second place and were awarded AmeriCorps stickers as the prize. Honestly, we were a little disappointed with the prize, but we enjoyed being able to hang out for a bit after dinner. Once the game was over, as we all started to leave the ballroom, some other members invited me to spend the evening at the pool, and I agreed to join them.

How I Spent the Evening

After changing and relaxing in my room for a while, I went to the pool to meet up with the other members who had invited me there. The pool area was really beautiful and we sat in the patio seating with our drinks, chatting away. I couldn’t resist taking a few photos! We talked for about two hours before I headed back to my room to catch up with my siblings before calling it a night. Even though it was the last day, I knew I had to be up early and didn’t want to be disorganized trying to finish my day and make it to the airport for my flight. So, after showering and packing up my things, I got into bed for the night.

Check out some photos from Day Two below!

Day Three: Closing & Departure

The Last Morning

Day Three started the same as Day Two, with breakfast from 8 to 8:45 AM, morning announcements from 8:45 to 9 AM, and then the last workshop from 9:15 to 10:45 AM. The breakfast menu was the same as the day before. This time, I wasn’t in the mood for the eggs, so I went for the fruit and breakfast potatoes with a Sweet Tangerine Positive Energy hot tea that I’d brought with me from home to drink. 

As it was our last day, there were no table labels to encourage new connections. Instead, we were asked to sit wherever we wanted and build upon the connections we had already made. Rather than having breakfast with my peers, I went back to my room to pack my things. We were instructed to leave our bags in a room next to the Grand Ballroom so that we could easily retrieve them when the shuttles arrived to take us to the airport. After packing my things, I quickly went downstairs to drop off my bags and attend the final workshop, Workshop 5: Communicating Your Accomplishments After Service, which lasted from 9:15 to 10:45 AM.

Workshop 5 Reflection

The fifth and final workshop for IST was aimed at highlighting marketable skills developed through VISTA service, and practicing how to describe VISTA services and accomplishments in a job interview or while speaking to others. As VISTA members, we undertake challenging roles that require us to develop a wide range of skills and make significant contributions to our communities. However, these skills and accomplishments may not always be immediately apparent to others and even ourselves. 

I felt that Workshop 5 was geared more toward college students and those who may not have experience in talking about their experiences on a resume. Personally, I did not find this workshop very helpful as I have a solid resume and portfolio website that I have developed over the years. In this workshop, I mostly talked about templates I created for myself, such as a plain text living resume document, an end-of-week work report, and an end-of-month work report. Overall, I feel that this workshop did not provide enough relevant information for building a resume that works for the current job market. However, I can see how it would be helpful to those who are just starting out with resume writing and job searching. 

Farewell, Lunch, and Departure

After Workshop 5 ended, we headed to our last break before the Closing Plenary and Farewell that took place from 11:15 to 12:15 PM. The closing keynote, “Building a Lasting Service Legacy”, was given by Shannon Davis.

Shannon began her work in homeless services in Hays County serving at-risk and homeless youth through AmeriCorps. She joined the fight for the Collin and Dallas County homeless communities in 2008. Since then, she has worked in a number of case management, operational, and leadership roles in the homeless community. Shannon received her master’s degree from University of North Texas and is completing her doctorate the University of Colorado-Boulder. She is currently working on her PMP certification and brings project management and strategic planning expertise to her position as the Assistant Director of Housing at CitySquare.

Listening to Shannon speak was also inspiring, just as Jamira’s speech was on the first day. Shannon provided insight into how her VISTA journey evolved into her lifelong passion and encouraged us to find ways to fulfill our life purpose through the work we are doing as VISTA members. Once the closing keynote was over, we spent some time completing a survey about our IST experience and received some final remarks from the VISTA leaders in attendance before we were dismissed for lunch at 12:15 PM. 

Having Lunch and Saying My Goodbyes

As this was our final lunch before leaving the hotel, it was not set up buffet-style. Instead, we had the option of a bagged lunch that contained either a turkey or vegan sandwich, with gluten-free options for both. The boxes also contained an apple, a cookie, and some chips. There was also water, fruit, juice, coffee, and tea available along the sides of the foyer hall for us to grab with our lunch. As I don’t eat meat, I opted for the vegan sandwich. 

After grabbing my lunch, I headed to the room where our luggage was kept and collected my bags before heading to the lobby. Along the way, I stopped to chat with some members I had met previously and took some final selfies at the photo booth. Once I made it downstairs to the hotel lobby, I found the members who I had hung out with at the pool the night before and sat with them to eat lunch. 

Since my flight was scheduled to depart after 4:50 PM, I didn’t expect to have to hop on the shuttle too soon. However, to avoid being late rather than early, I hopped on the shuttle when everyone else at my table did. I arrived at the airport about two and a half hours early. The trip back to Detroit was much more hectic than the trip to Dallas; my gate was changed 5 times, my flight was delayed by 20 minutes, and I took 7,528 steps before my plane took off.

Check out some photos from Day Three below!

Final Thoughts…

Overall, I loved being about to take advantage of the VISTA In-Service Training in Dallas during AmeriCorps Week. It was exciting to meet people from across the nation who were all serving as VISTA members to make their local communities better. Being able to spend time and connect with VISTA members was probably my favorite part about Dallas. Each member has their own unique perspective and passion they bring to the table, and a great sense of humor, too. Although I might not have learned as much as some of my younger peers, I was able to make some significant connections that I will treasure for a long time. Additionally, I got to travel to a new place, which was an added bonus!

What’s Next

At this point, I am three months into my service year for this cohort, and so far, I am feeling good about the progress I have made. It is crucial to keep having discussions about the best ways to make the most of this experience and the accomplishments that will arise throughout the year. As I continue my service year, I intend to remain focused on my personal and career goals, look for creative ways to achieve them, and make the most of this opportunity. I am excited about the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead, and I am confident that I will achieve great things this year.

Are you a VISTA member on the fence about whether you should sign up for IST?

This section is for you! Below, I wanted to share some information that might help you make your decision about attending IST.

Things You Should Know

It’s A FREE Trip!

If I can be 100% real with you right now, even if you don’t have any other motivation to go to IST, you don’t want to miss out on the opportunity simply because it’s a FREE trip! Personally, I had the chance to go to Dallas for the first time through IST, and I can’t complain about that experience. Not only that, it’s a great chance to practice networking and build relationships with other VISTA members, all without spending a dime. The round-trip flight, transportation to and from the hotel, a single hotel room, and food are all provided.

You Get A Per Diem for Spending

If you’re thinking about signing up for IST, here’s a perk you might not know about: you’ll receive a per diem in your bank account to compensate for a portion of the money you might’ve spent during the training. I wish I had known about this sooner when I attended IST because, despite not expecting it, having that extra cash came in handy.

During the training in Dallas, when everyone was eager to explore on the evening of Day 2, I initially declined because I hadn’t brought extra spending money. Had I known about the per diem, I would’ve been able to join in and enjoy the city. However, upon getting it, the per diem helped cover some of the incidental expenses I had getting to and from Detroit, where I had to arrange my travel around taking care of my dog. So, make sure you take advantage of this benefit and make the most of your IST experience!

About the Food (for non-meat-eaters)

The best part about the food was that there were plenty of snacks offered in between breakfast, lunch, and dinner. However, for someone like me who doesn’t eat meat, it was no surprise to find the food options not so flavorful and limited in options. As I said before, in my opinion, the food and beverage industry should rethink how they approach creating menus for non-meat-eaters by providing more and better tasting options.

About the Workshops

During the training, the workshops were interactive and the agenda included a variety of activities that allowed me to meet and learn from my VISTA colleagues. My biggest critique from the week was the depth of information given in the workshops and the minimal timeframes allotted to meeting the members in those workshops. Each workshop, it felt like we were barely getting by with making our introductions and we just had to roll with the punches. In some cases, there were at least one or two people who didn’t have a chance to introduce themselves before we jumped into the presentations. Outside of feeling rushed at different times, the workshops provided helpful information (especially for those in or fresh out of college) that we could take with us and apply throughout our service year.

YES, You Should Definitely Go!

I hope this post has provided you with all the information you were seeking and more about attending IST. If you’re a VISTA member who’s still unsure about whether IST is a worthwhile opportunity or not, I can personally vouch that it is!

Want more information from this In-Service Training event?

Check out the information below from the March 2024 IST!


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Desiree' M. Slaughter

Desiree' M. Slaughter

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