Zorrae Bowie, AmeriCorps VISTA and Campus-Community Liaison for Engage San Francisco
My name is Zorrae Bowie. I am the third in a legacy of AmeriCorps VISTA’s working with both the Success Center San Francisco and the University of San Francisco (USF). I traveled here from Lawrence, Kansas. Indeed, I feel like I traveled here by way of tornado. It seems the winds of the plains scooped me up and flung me across the States in a whirlwind of unknown, and then conspicuously rested me gently into the supportive arms of the community I’ve come to serve. I’ve never felt so much love and support from individuals I’ve barely known, but who welcome me as though I were a long lost friend.
For those of you who may not know, The Success Center is the umbrella of programs and resources planted in communities throughout the San Francisco Bay Area. I spend four out of five week days at the career center – just one of the buds that’s blossomed under the rains that burdened a marginalized community. I work under the direct supervision of the lively and energetic Community Relations Director, Adrian Owens, a San Francisco native who know this city and everyone in it like the back of her hand. As a result of the immense growth the Success Center has experienced, Ms. Adrian’s role is new to the organization, in part I will support in the development of trainings, processes, and organizational resources for the Success Centers. The Success Center is continuing to bloom and spread throughout Bay Area through the vision of the compassionate and connected CEO, Liz Jackson-Simpson, and her team of deep-rooted directors. Every individual I’ve encountered throughout this organization has been knowledgeable about their cause, and expressed an eagerness to serve their community.
As I’ve come to learn in my short time here, there is no shortage of ideas as big and as bright as the sun, revolving around how to engage the community and have a positive impact, nor a shortage of fiery passion to see those ideas through. The Success Center’s mission is to empower the community through education, employment, and the arts and I am here to help sow the seeds of success by assisting in building the organizations capacity to do just that.
My position with USF is housed in the Leo T McCarthy Center’s Engage San Francisco. The Engage San Francisco initiative works with children, youth and families in the Western Addition in areas such as education, health, career development, and housing. These are needs specified by the community itself that support the neighborhood’s majority African American population who live below the poverty line. Engage San Francisco provides an opportunity for the wider USF community to better immerse themselves in the city they call home, and it has done the same for me as a newcomer to the Bay Area.
I intend to continue to build on the foundation of my predecessors in their efforts to engage students in community-engaged learning opportunities and bridge the gap between higher education establishments and the geographic community in which they operate. How does one do this? It appears to require four fundamental skills: attentive listening to informed needs, a willingness to learn, and a solid work ethic. I’m interested in organizational psychology, and while I’m not specialized in this way, the universe has provided me the perfect opportunity to exercise and strengthen the skills I do possess for the greater good and sustainability of an incredible organization.
Additionally, I find myself practicing patience with myself around living in a new area, adapting to new communication styles and personality types, and of course figuring out the public transit system. I feel I’m growing into my skin here in San Francisco and look forward to all the city and its hospitable residents have to offer.
I am in the unique position of working side by side by side with two individuals who are grounded in their practice and have taken on new roles and responsibilities as a result of their commitment to service. I look forward to the challenges and opportunities for growth for both them and myself.
My name is Zorrae Bowie but this isn’t so much about me, as it is about all of us. As an outsider looking in, I see reflections of this place, its hurts and its strengths in every interaction. And, while I have defined objectives around how I will spend my time here, I hope if I do nothing else I inspire others to be genuine and intentional about their interactions as well. To feel (at times too deeply) the life of this city- and to dedicate their time, energy, and resources to engaging with the world we live in and acknowledge the impact every individual can make, for better or worse.