I am, let's just say 30ish, and am raising a beautiful little girl who is the apple of my eye. She is 5 and quite precocious. If you hang around her long enough she will school you in Art, Politics, and -thanks to Google- can describe the difference between starving and famished.
A brief history, I graduated from college in 2002 from Texas A&M University Corpus Christi, GO ISLANDERS!!! I am about a semester short of my Masters from the University of Texas-Pan American. I swear the thesis will be my undoing!
I taught kindergarten for a year and decided that I didn't know how or in what way, but I wanted to make a difference in not only the children's lives, but the parents as well. I wasn't quite sure how I would do it, but trusted that if I took a giant leap of faith, somehow some way, I would find my way.
With my first summer off I began volunteering at the local political party office. I was hired to be a volunteer coordinator and before I knew it, I was the executive director. I was simultaneously heading up an Alternative Certification Program (ACP) for teaching certification. On top of public relations, marketing, and negotiations, I learned some very important things through this experience:
- You can survive off 4 hours of sleep a night, though it is not recommended.
- 15-hour workdays are a walk in the park, if you don't need things like clean laundry, showers, or time with your kids.
- If you serve food, they will come, no matter the crowd.
- If the person traveling is important enough, people will lend you an airplane.
- Political campaigns-though no one tells you in the beginning- are war and you can expect casualties. If you escape with your reputation intact, it's been a good day.
- Non-profits rock my socks off- seriously- these are people who fight the good fight and expect very little in return, which is good because they will get little more than the satisfaction of a job well done.
Around Christmas time my best friend told me that there was an opening for someone with an Education background and who possessed some of my talents. I looked into the job and wanted on board very badly. When I saw it was a VISTA position I realized I would have to take a significant pay cut to work for them, but the ultimate rewards would be more than monetary. I would be able to look back and know I made a difference in my community. I realized this was the leap of faith I had been searching for. This was the opportunity I had been looking for to make a difference in not only the children's lives but the parents as well. I had somehow, some way, come full circle and found my way.
Was it hard to make this decision? I would like to lie and say ‘Not at all, I'm magnanimous that way' but alas I would be lying. It was a tough decision to make as a single parent, but it also was sort of easy. I wanted to do something that allowed me to be a role model for my daughter. To show her that if you care about people and you put out that vibe into the universe, it eventually comes back to you.
I am proud to be an AmeriCorps VISTA, and glad that it’s with the Texas HIPPY Program.
- Esmeralda ‘Emí’ Zuñiga