Since I've been blessed with the chance to have a good education and many opportunities, I feel obligated to give back and to use the education and the experiences I've had to make an impact.
Chris McCoy, AmeriCorps Vista
Interviewed By Cindy Magana, School House student at Home Away
I understand that you work for AmeriCorps VISTA. Could you please tell me what VISTA is?
VISTA is a national service program designed to alleviate poverty in America. It was started as part of President Lyndon Johnson's War on Poverty in the sixties as a way for Americans to build the capacity of nonprofit and governmental organizations that work to fight poverty. VISTA members have to live on a modest stipend that's equal to about 150% of the poverty level of where they work.
Why were you interested in working for VISTA?
Since I've been blessed with the chance to have a good education and many opportunities, I feel obligated to give back and to use the education and the experiences I've had to make an impact. I felt called to specifically serve young people from low-income backgrounds.
You are going to go into the Peace Corps soon. Where are you going and what will you be doing?
I am going to teach English as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Nicaragua, which is in Central America, right next to Costa Rica and Honduras. I'm excited because it's a chance for me to return to a region I visited when I was fourteen. I went to Costa Rica as a sophomore in high school as part of this ecology service program called Ecology Project International. We translated our findings about sea turtle migration into Spanish and presented them to a Costa Rican high school class.
So, you are a student of Spanish. Today-during a slide show presentation on Egypt-you were able to read an Arabic inscription over a door. How do you know Arabic?
I have studied Arabic for several years, starting in college at UC San Diego and then as an exchange student at the American University in Cairo, Egypt. I was in Egypt from the fall of 2009 to the fall of 2010, just before the Egyptian revolution, when President Mubarak was compelled to resign. Contacts I made there became sources for quotes and pictures when I worked as a reporter and hosted a talk radio show upon returning to UC San Diego.
How long are you going to stay at Home Away and what projects do you want to complete while here?
I will be finishing my year of service as a VISTA with Bay Area Community Resources here at Home Away in August, right before I leave for the Peace Corps. I put together a collection of stories that School House students did based on "The Mysteries of Harris Burdick," and have been developing marketing strategies to help Home Away raise more money to build its programs, as well as producing promotional videos for the organization. I have enjoyed my time at Home Away, especially with the School House.
Do you have anything else you'd like to say?
I feel that Home Away creates a very homelike, safe, supportive environment, and I think it's really important that Home Away can continue to provide a homelike environment for youth from homeless or formerly homeless families here in the San Francisco Bay Area. I'm very thankful for this opportunity and definitely hope to stay in contact with people as I travel on my adventures. I even have a blog so people can stay up to date with my journey: aglobalcitizen.tumblr.com
Thank you, Chris, for being here with us this summer. Good luck in the Peace Corps!