BY KATHRYN RYAN, COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT PROGRAM ASSOCIATE, THE HUB
“The opportunity that I have through my VISTA service is unique in that it allows me to use my expertise – everything I learned in college and through internships and research – to make a positive change and create something I am proud of within just one year,” says Rachel Pell, a Hub-sponsored VISTA at Friends of Deckers Creek (FODC) in Morgantown.
FODC is a nonprofit watershed group whose mission is to improve the natural qualities of, increase the public concern for, and promote the enjoyment of the Deckers Creek Watershed. “It is amazing to be surrounded by so many people that are passionate about taking on such a daunting task of remediating a stream so heavily polluted,” says Rachel.
As an AmeriCorps VISTA Intermediary, The Hub sponsors multiple VISTAS (Volunteers in Service to America) throughout the state. When Rachel came across the available position, she was excited to get on board with The Hub to become FODC’s environmental education VISTA:
“Other than the rewarding nature of my work, one of my favorite benefits of my VISTA position is the professional development aspect. Already in my first three months, I have expanded my knowledge of stream health and remediation, learned so many new things about education and outreach, and increased my skill set in terms of technology, writing, and leadership.”
The Hub sponsors this VISTA project because of the impact it has on the surrounding community. Rachel’s role at FODC is to pull community members into the work that FODC is doing to improve communities that fall within this watershed. “The success of FODC and other watershed groups is wholly dependent on the support of the community,” Rachel says. “Remediating Deckers Creek not only benefits fish and other wildlife, it also benefits all of the communities within the 64 square-mile watershed. In fact, an economic study by Downstream Strategies found that a remediated Deckers Creek would generate $14 million for local businesses and workers. Benefits include increased property values, the removal of a threat to public health, and greater use of the area by recreationists.”
A VISTA’s role is to focus on capacity-building and sustainability. Rachel shares, “As a VISTA, my task is to create an impact within FODC and the community that will last after my year of service is up. What better way to do this than by education? Partnered with local schools and other organizations, I educate the community about a myriad of stream-related topics… By involving the community, I’m helping to build a sustainable network for FODC to continue to thrive for years to come.”
We at The Hub love having the opportunity to engage talented individuals like Rachel in great initiatives across the state. Through our VISTA program, we’re able to provide these individuals with endless resources, trainings, and the opportunity to build a network within their particular field of interest. To learn more and get involved, email me, Kathryn Ryan at firstname.lastname@example.org and check out the VISTA opportunities that are currently available at The Hub.
As Rachel described, being a VISTA means having the opportunity to make positive change and create something you’re proud of in just one year. If you’re searching for a way to make impact in West Virginia, don’t wait! Apply to become a VISTA today.