I choose to served as an AmeriCorps VISTA, because being from a small town in the Rio Grande Valley of South Texas, I felt like I’ve always lived a very sheltered life. With that, I knew with my profession as a future Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC), I needed to leave my hometown and experience different cultures and diversity to better understand a person’s background.
I believe in order to help someone, we must learn a level of understanding and appreciation of each other in order to facilitate any type of collaboration and cooperation. Now after being a VISTA, I can say with 1,000% I’ve achieved my goal and I am thankful for this opportunity.
Cynthia (Cindy) Salas has been an invaluable member of the Concho Valley community during her VISTA year with MHMR Services for the Concho Valley. As their Outreach Coordinator VISTA, Cindy worked on offering the community a wide variety of services, combating the stigma of mental illness and health, fundraising, and grant research and writing. She particularly remembers attending West Texas Rural Philanthropy Days, a conference that both provides training to nonprofits and connects them with foundations and government agencies of similar interests. There she attended a grant writing seminar that gave her the knowledge to apply for many grants to fund MHMR’s various programs. Cindy says her biggest achievement was creating MHMR’s first annual report in 17 years on the impact they have on the community. She describes her biggest success as partnering with other organizations in the community and keeping open-minded communication. Being a VISTA taught her to work with people of all personality types and how to balance dealing with diverse groups of people.
For Cindy, her VISTA year was a year of personal growth. She learned a lot about herself and pushed herself harder than ever before. She says that the most important thing she learned was to work right though the bad days because they do not last forever and she is strong enough to endure them. In fact, if she could go back in time and talk to herself at the star of her service term she would tell herself, “Be easier on yourself, because you can get through the dark days no matter how hard they may be.” Her advice for future VISTAs is to take everything day by day and not panic, push yourself because that is when you learn the most about yourself, and to have fun.
Although Cindy’s VISTA year is ending she is happy because of everything she was able to learn. Cindy leaves us to go home to South Texas and will spend the summer as a Summer Associate VISTA with the Texas Hunger Initiative as a children outreach coordinator for summer meals.