Fresh out of graduate school and wanting to pursue a totally new career, I had an idea of what I wanted to do professionally, but I just was not sure of the proper steps to achieve my goals. I did not want to rush into a job just for financial gain; I wanted to do something meaningful while gaining experience that could lead me into my career path. After having several conversations with fellow classmates and hearing a presentation by VISTA alumni, I decided to apply, to build some confidence if nothing else.

The process was not as easy as I assumed and challenged me to truly think about what would be important moving forward: a role where my work would be meaningful to me or jumping into an entry-level job because this is what was expected as a “next step.” I decided to take a chance with VISTA, sacrificing monetary gain for something far more important—performing a job that I truly wanted to do! I was able to secure a position at a host organization with the support and guidance of Housing Action Illinois and have never looked back.

During my tenure as a VISTA Program Advocate for the Alliance to End Homelessness in Suburban Cook County, I felt not only confidant, but prepared to begin my professional career on the right track. Working at a smaller nonprofit that dealt with housing initiatives, grant funding and government entities alike, I was able to gain valuable hands-on experience. The skills and relationships that were formed, both personal and professional, only enhanced my career outlook.

I wanted to work for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) preserving and/or developing affordable housing, and through my work as a VISTA my dream came true. I was able to obtain this federal job within three months of completing my VISTA experience. I know that my year of VISTA service aided me in solidifying my position as an Account Executive in HUD’s Office of Multifamily Housing in Chicago.

I cannot say enough about my VISTA experience, I would recommend this path for anyone who has a heart for service and wants to think outside the box. You will not go wrong!

Veronica Sims
VISTA Alumni 2014