Where are they now? Two former VISTAs share their experiences

BY ERIN SUSMAN, OPERATIONS AND VISTA PROGRAM MANAGER, THE HUB

The Hub’s former VISTAs held crucial roles in creating momentum towards positive change in WV. We’re thankful for the time they’ve dedicated to our community development work, and it’s no surprise that they’re moving ahead to bright futures. We caught up with a couple of our former VISTAs–Sathiyan Sivakumaran and Zach Rissman–on how their work at The Hub has impacted future goals and achievements.

Sathiyan Sivakumaran

Former VISTAs Breanna Collins and Sathiyan Sivakumaran

Sathiyan Sivakumaran served in The Hub’s AmeriCorps VISTA program in 2018 with our HubCAP III program. During his year with The Hub, Sathiyan had a front-row seat to exciting progress made in the communities in the HubCAP program. He fondly remembers seeing the HubCAP teams take ownership of their community meetings to drive the work they identified was an impactful thing to witness and support. We recently had a chance to catch up with Sathiyan, and reflecting on his year, he said, “the connection of Matewan’s HubCAP community team to Coalfield Development was an awesome thing that happened.” Through those seeds being sown during the program, the Nenni Buildings in Matewan have been purchased and grant funding has been secured to further redevelop and revitalize the community. Without HubCAP, these connections would not have happened. 

Reflecting on his year of service with The Hub, here’s what Sathiyan had to say: 

“I learned a lot from everyone, whether it was from their experiences and stories or from their expertise. It’s hard to keep track of all I learned. Running effective meetings and ensuring there is value produced from meetings was something that’s proven extremely important in my work now. Nobody likes to waste their time, so when people are volunteering their time and effort, I feel like it’s even more necessary to make every minute worth it.

In a less tangible way, I gained a better understanding of the unique nature of every individual and how to navigate different personalities and mindsets to achieve progress. I also grew an appreciation–or at least, understanding–for the challenges and time that our efforts can take before clear value is shown.”

Since concluding his term with The Hub, Sathiyan has gone on to work for the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement, where he oversees the agency’s Semester Internship, AmeriCorps, and AmeriCorps VISTA programs. He also supports the Abandoned Mine Land and Abandoned Mine Land Economic Revitalization (AMLER) programs in his role. 

Zach Rissman at The Hub’s Charleston office

Zach Rissman

A great part of hosting an AmeriCorpsVISTA project at The Hub is getting to see our members continued growth. 

You may remember Zach Rissman, our AmeriCorps VISTA member who served at The Hub in 2019-2020. Zach was an instrumental piece of laying the foundation for the Community Collaborative Network. We recently caught up with Zach to see what lessons he learned during his year of service, and what he is up to now. 

Here’s what he had to say: 

“My year of service taught me some incredible things, both about myself and the world. First, it really helped show me what I was capable of and pushed me beyond my own limits. Serving with The Hub made me grow immensely as a person and, especially as my first foray into adulthood after college, was an extremely valuable way to spring into the world. The Hub allowed a level of autonomy that forced me to think for myself and helped me become more self-assured and self-reliant. 

Serving with The Hub also taught me a lot about the world. Through the work that was being done by The Hub and Hub partners and through meeting all of the people that I did, I became extremely humbled by the level of innovation, creativity, and humanity that existed in this sphere in West Virginia. I learned about the strength and beauty that exist all over West Virginia communities and will never forget the impact that had on me.” 

Zach shared that his next chapter will begin in May, when he enters a program to learn how to be a sustainable, small-scale farmer.

Erin Susman is The Hub’s Operations and VISTA Program Manager. You can reach her at e.susman@wvhub.org.

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