I serve because it is important to be kind and help others. VISTA gives me the opportunity to do that. I am working on developing a diabetes education program, helping people in the community and diabetics learn more about their health and prevent complications related to diabetes. I also chose to complete my year of service in San Angelo because this community has given me so much in the six years I have lived here while attending ASU that I wanted to give something back.
The Concho Valley has been truly blessed to have Rachael Lisewsky as an Americorps VISTA for the last year. Originally from Houston Texas, Rachael came to San Angelo to study Psychology at ASU. Although she was initially hesitant to become a VISTA, she describes it as a truly rewarding experience and a time of growth for her. Rachael worked with the San Angelo Diabetes Coalition as a Diabetes Program Development VISTA. After a community health assessment discovered high rates of diabetes in San Angelo, 5 organizations came together to form the coalition. As their VISTA Rachael began working on diabetes self-management education, a program to teach type 2 diabetics how to manage their diabetes. She helped achieve a lot for the San Angelo Diabetes Coalition including: receiving a $264,000 grant from Blue Cross Blue Shield, beginning diabetes outreach events, and finding a program with a curriculum to model San Angelo’s diabetes self-management education after. At the diabetes outreach events people can have their blood sugar, hemoglobin levels, and kidney function tested. Rachael says that her biggest success for the coalition has been finding Coastal Bend Health Education Center and partnering with them to use their curriculum. She explains that it was important to her to start the program in San Angelo with an effective curriculum that has 10 years of success.
This past year Rachael has learned that she is more capable than she ever imagined, as she studied to get her Master’s degree while working as a full-time VISTA. Rachael describes her biggest personal success this past year as getting her Master’s degree in Industrial Organizational Psychology. She was inspired her to pursue this area of psychology when she discovered her love of the work environment and the fast paced relationships built there on a visit home to see her dad. She describes Industrial Organizational Psychology as like being a therapist for an organization and says that being a VISTA has helped her learn that bringing people together is often tough but when you do great things happen.
In addition to her VISTA position Rachael earned her Master’s degree in Industrial Organizational Psychology held and actively participated in a number of leadership positions in the community this year. She is currently on the Board of Directors for Legal Aid of Northwest Texas, A Smiles Foundation Committee Member for Texas Mission of Mercy, a Member of the Shannon Diabetes Advisory Group, and a Founding Member of the Community Garden Project with the San Angelo Texas Hunger Initiative.
Rachael says it is going to be tough to leave this project. She feels that she has really grown with the project. She is also sad that she will not be working with Elise Mitchell, another VISTA for the coalition, who has become her best friend over the last year. She says that if she could go back in time and talk to herself at the beginning of her VISTA year she would remind herself that they are just planted the seed and you do not always get to see every moment of the tree’s growth. She advises future VISTAs not to be discouraged when things seem to go astray, because they all fall into place in the end. She also wants to remind them to take time for themselves and make sure to use this year for personal growth.
After finishing her VISTA term Rachael is using the summer to work as a Summer Associate VISTA with the Texas Hunger Initiative’s San Angelo Regional Field Office.