Alumni Spotlight: Marie Lovato
I began my experience as an AmeriCorps VISTA Fellow as a recent graduate with no real professional experience. My retail background did little to qualify me for the field of work I wanted to pursue and AmeriCorps seemed like the perfect opportunity to gain relevant experience while working around issues of poverty. In 2014 I finished a two-year stint with the Siena College VISTA program, serving one year with the nonprofit Albany Barn and a second year as a program leader. This experience gave me a chance to work on a myriad of projects and in different capacities.
During my initial year with the program I served as the program and community outreach coordinator for Albany Barn. At that time The Barn had only a board of directors, with no hired staff other than myself. That year I got to work closely with the members of The Barn’s board, learning about nonprofit governance as well as how to coordinate programming, organize volunteers, advocate to the public, and plan and execute events. Serving in all those roles and working so closely with the people who created Albany Barn was an invaluable experience. I learned hard skills that I could put on my resume, and gained a confidence in my ability as a young professional.
In an effort to further expand my skillset, I applied to be, and was selected to serve, as a program leader. Again, I was tasked with wearing many hats. The VISTA Leader position requires one to help coordinate and implement the various facets of the program, and to also serve as a mentor and liaison between the fellows and administration. In addition, I received specialized training in peer mediation and public speaking through the office.
The reason I applied to be an AmeriCorps VISTA Fellow was to gain experience as a professional, working to address poverty. Following my years of service, I enrolled in Rockefeller College where I earned my master’s degree in public administration. My experience in AmeriCorps gave me a desire to explore addressing poverty through policy and public advocacy. During graduate school I participated in multiple fellowships which gave me the chance to work on human service issues at a state level. My experiences as a VISTA gave me confidence to know that I am adaptable and able to succeed given the opportunity. Currently I work for the NYS Assembly conducting budget analysis in the area of human services. Each step of my journey has been one building block in my mission of serving those in need, and my time as an AmeriCorps VISTA was an important foundation for that journey. As I continue on my career path, I look back at my time in this program as a valuable experience where I met many wonderful people and learned the importance of trying new things and not backing away from a challenge.
AmeriCorps VISTA from 2012-2014