Voices of AmeriCorps: Shelby Soberalski

Written by the Corps Support Committee

The Rural Opportunity VISTA Program’s members provide capacity building to organizations by expanding on existing programming or creating a new program from the ground up. The VISTAs in this cohort are hard-working, dedicated, and awesome!

This month, as the great stories submitted by the AmeriCorps State Members and the AmeriCorps VISTA Members were coming in, one person’s story in particular really stood out to us.  The Corps Support Committee is so grateful to all those who allowed us to take a peek behind the curtain of their service year.

February 2017: Shelby Soberalski

ShelbyVISTAThis month we are highlighting: Shelby Soberalski! Shelby is an AmeriCorps VISTA currently serving in her first year.  She is empowered by the knowledge that she can do something to make a change in her hometown and excited about being a VISTA. Here is her Great Story submission:

In my short time of being an AmeriCorps VISTA Member, I’ve been able to do a lot of work that I never thought that I’d be able to do. It has opened many opportunities while also opening my eyes to many struggles in my own hometown. But knowing that I can do something about it is empowering.

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter” is a quote that I’ve always felt inspired by. Martin Luther King Jr. has always inspired me through different projects that I’ve done throughout my life. At a young age, his stories always compelled me to think of others and give back. When I was 14 years old and visited the National Mall and stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial where he had stood years before me to deliver his unforgettable “I have a Dream” speech, was incredibly humbling.

I’ve volunteered a lot in my life and when I first thought of the idea of becoming an AmeriCorps VISTA Member, I knew this was something I could do. One of the first things I noticed was the MLK Day of Service and I loved the idea of serving in honor of Dr. King.

After researching a few different and unique ideas of what to do for MLK Day of Service, my fellow VISTA, Sarah McMahon, and I agreed upon the idea of creating Valentines Cards for Veterans and active Military personnel. We decided to encourage local senior citizens, fifth grade students and a Girl Scout troop to help us create over 100 cards.

I’ve learned a lot about Dr. King and I’ve always taken Martin Luther King Jr. day seriously, but it wasn’t until I was in a fifth grade classroom, as an AmeriCorps VISTA Member, that I fully understood. I was finally able to understand the impact of a volunteer and how far my service as a VISTA can go. Even though Dr. King is no longer here, I can continue to foster his dream. That it doesn’t take much for me to make a difference. The students were in awe hearing about what the AmeriCorps VISTA program is about and that I am able to help carry on such an important legacy that Martin Luther King Jr. started. Of all the thoughtful cards these students made for our Military, one wrote,

ThankYouCard“We are thankful for you and your work. If the AmeriCorps Volunteers did not give us the advantage to right notes to you and other working veterans’ this day would be wasted because there’s nothing better than thanking our working men and women.” [Note was copied word for word]

Reading through all of these cards, I was in awe of the lessons I was able to share with these students and I hope that they continue to feel compelled to give back to others. Days of service like this make me look forward to the rest of my service. It is moments like this, that I’m so glad I decided to become a part of something much larger than myself and commit to being an AmeriCorps VISTA Member.

CEDAM hosts the Michigan Financial Opportunity Corps and the Rural Opportunity VISTA program AmeriCorps programs. We would like to thank the Corps Support Committee (Jennifer Tucker, Lily Fossel and Autumn Zywicki) for providing content to the Voices of AmeriCorps series.