Over the past year, Zorrae Bowie, AmeriCorps Volunteers in Service to America (VISTA) and Campus-Community Liaison for Engage San Francisco has made an invaluable contribution to the Success Center SF and the McCarthy Center during her time in the Fillmore. After blogging previously on her first impressions of her new posotion, she leaves us this week as her year-long tenure comes to an end, but not without sharing her insight one last time. Her interview has been condensed and edited for this space.
1) What is your biggest takeaway from being a VISTA who served as Community Liaison to the Success Center in the Western Addition?
The biggest takeaway from being a VISTA is that I got to be a part of a community. I got to know so many people who care about the same things that I care about while working with the Success Center and the Leo T. McCarthy Center. It was nice to have people that I could lean on and talk to for support and also get different ideas about how to tackle certain issues. I also cherished the opportunity to come to the Bay Area, to travel, to experience a new culture and a new part of the country, and to be educated on issues that I was interested in, but which I did not know how to actively engage with otherwise. Becoming part of both the USF community and also the community at the Success Centers was invaluable, allowing me to meet people who were already doing great work in the city, learning from them and fostering friendships and connections along the way.
2) How did the Success Center meet your expectations?
I came into this year without much expectation. I was ready to do whatever was asked of me. Often, the way I expected things to go was completely different than how it happened. I did, however, expect to have my eyes open to new ways of thinking and working. And I think that expectation was met. This came through the amazing staff I worked with.
The staff are super lively and fun and they work really really hard. You get the sense that they care a lot about the work that they do. There’s a passion that sometimes can lead to burn out. They do it because it’s something that they care about. They show up ready to serve. I drew a lot from that energy. Whenever Success Center CEO, Liz Jackson Simpson walked into a room, you could just feel the passion and the energy, and it was an effective reminder of why we’re doing what we’re doing. Every little piece of self care, every thing that we do as a whole, every meeting that we go to — is so that we can better show up for the community.
I think I brought a fresh kind of energy and when I got there it was really exciting, especially when it came to things like social media branding and doing outreach. I brought a lot of administrative and organizational skills into the setting. I learned that being in nonprofit can often be very reactionary kind of work. And so subtle reminders of planning and organization can help support long term work and counteract burnout. I think that that kind of strategic thinking was something that I definitely brought into the mix.
My biggest satisfaction was probably something that I learned about myself – selfcare. I think my biggest satisfactions were the tiny breaks that I would take for myself during the day. It probably seems like a really small thing. But those were the moments where I could really reset my thinking and come back to a task and be more fully present for it. My biggest regret is that I feel like I am leaving with so much that could be done.
3) What advice would you give the next VISTA?
My advice for the next VISTA is to really show up ready and willing on your first day. I remember Ms Adrian said to me early on that you’re jumping on to a moving train. She said that “we’re expanding, and growing and so be ready.” And being ready for that energy is important because it can take you anywhere you want.