By: Tiffany Rodriguez, Program Coordinator, Vital Village Network
December 15, 2020
Community Champion: Lucas Sensius
Role: Community Mobilization Coordinator
Each fall, Vital Village Networks gratefully welcomes at least 2 Americorps VISTA members who support the local Boston work. Lucas joined Vital Village Networks for one year starting in the fall of 2019. Thank you for being a shining addition to our village, Lucas.
Q. Tell us about your role as an Americorps VISTA. What brought you to this program? What does your role as Community Mobilization Coordinator with Vital Village Network look like?
AmeriCorps stood out to me as a way to find and learn about organizations that focused on community and capacity building. As a Community Mobilization Coordinator, the biggest part of my job is consistency and communication, listening and learning from the community and working to connect organizations and individuals to help reach their goals. I have been able to see projects evolve to meet the challenges of physical distancing through continued dedication of community members and am so proud to have been a part of that.
Q. What have you learned so far from working alongside and within the Boston community? How have these lessons and experiences shaped you?
My biggest takeaway from the Vital Village community is the power of community leadership. While I’ve always felt that community driven change was powerful, I was not able to experience it directly until now. All of the individuals and organizations within the Boston community that show up and work together have blown me away. Community leadership and knowledge is of incalculable value to public health and it is something that will stay with me throughout my career.
Q. If the Boston Globe were to write a front page story on the Vital Village Network, what would you want for them to say? What would you want for the world to know about the community in Boston?
It would be a story of community leadership, partnership, and true collaboration; there is no other way to describe the village. I would want the world to know about these individuals and organizations who have put their children and their community above themselves or their own organizations to come together and address systemic problems. There is so much value in this model of community. Any story should be focused on the selflessness of these individuals and organizations and the model that has grown here as a result of this community collaboration.
Q. What has been your favorite part about your experience as a VISTA?
My favorite part of this experience is the relationships, both with the Vital Village staff and the community. From day one, as a participant in the 2019 National Community Leadership Summit, I was asked to sit by a table of members of the Vital Village community without their knowledge that I was an incoming VISTA. That really showed to me just how inclusive of a group this is. Normally feeling a part of a community after moving across half the country takes a long time, but I know that as long as I am in Boston I will be a part of a large community of amazing and remarkable people.
Q. How did the COVID19 pandemic impact you as a VISTA? Do you have any advice for VISTAs who are starting their service during this time?
The pandemic has impacted everyone differently. In my work, I was thankful to continue working to ensure that the efforts of those in the community continue. I also benefited from having the first half of my service without physical distancing, allowing me to build off of the relationships I had already made and continue pushing forward.
Assuming your VISTA year may be at least, in part, working from home, my advice to any VISTAs starting their service is to cultivate relationships with your community and co-workers any way that you can. I also think it is important to accept that working in these circumstances is not ideal, and you may feel like you are not doing enough, but by taking on a service year you have already decided to push yourself to help in whatever cause you are working in.
Q. What one piece of advice would you give to future VISTAs searching for a good match with an organization?
I would say that it is important to look deeper into an organization than just a job listing. Just as you would when developing friendships, you want to make sure the organization’s personality and interests align with yours to discover a great match. I focused on epidemiology in school, particularly with an interest in health disparities or infectious disease, so when I first glanced at the listing for Vital Village, I was not sure if it would be a good fit as I had little experience in child health. However, when looking into the guiding principles of the organization, I realized how much it aligned with my worldview and interests. If I had passed them up at first glance, I may have missed what I feel is one of the most impactful years of work I will have.
Community Champion Blog Series: This Q&A blog series is an initiative launched by Tiffany Rodriguez, NOW Program Coordinator, to uplift the incredible leaders walking the walk by leading social change and creating communities where children and families don't just survive, they thrive. Nominate your local community champion here!