Editor’s Note: Rachel is serving as an AmeriCorps VISTA (Volunteers In Service To America) at NEHDA for the year. Her roll involves a variety of tasks, such as recruiting volunteers and applying for funding opportunities to plan really cool, really fun events that benefit the community. Rachel graduated from SUNY New Paltz with a BFA in Sculpture and a minor in psychology. She spent the past year serving in another AmeriCorps program where she traveled the state of New York to help out with various environmental projects. As part of Rachel’s work with NEHDA, she is writing some posts for us to share. All of her posts can be found under the “NEHDA” category. To learn more about NEHDA, visit their website and Facebook.
Anna works for NEHDA as an AmeriCorps VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America). Her job duties include grant research, community outreach, and administrative support for the Northside Business Partnership. We look forward to seeing what she accomplishes during her time with us.
Question: Where are you from?
Anna: I was born in Syracuse, at St. Joe’s.
Q: So you haven’t strayed far. Do you like it here or do you eventually want to end up elsewhere?
A: I want to experience living in other places, definitely. I wouldn’t necessarily say, 100% I would never come back here and live. But I definitely don’t plan on being here forever and not living other places first. I like it here, I just don’t necessarily want to stay.
Q: What keeps you in the area?
A: My boyfriend and his job. I went to school here, because it was cheaper.
Q: What did you study?
A: I studied Spanish and I studied sociology.
Q: So how did you end up here at NEHDA?
A: Well, I wanted to do something a little bit more meaningful with my break in between college and grad school, and I wanted a break because I wanted some time to figure out what I want to go to grad school for. So I found AmeriCorps, my mom gave me a flyer. I applied for all of the jobs that they offered in Syracuse . . Mike ended up calling me, and I came here and I kind of loved it, so I ended up staying.
Q: Do you have a sense of what you want to go to grad school for at this point?
A: I’m torn between law or public policy, and education.
Q: So how does that relate back to your undergraduate degree?
A: Spanish education. So I would teach Spanish and dance, or law and public policy. There’s a whole bunch of different ways that Spanish and Hispanic culture and things like that tie into law and public policy. Whether it’s advocating for the Hispanic community, or just needing to translate, stuff like that.
Q: What initially drew you to this area of advocacy?
A: Well, I started dancing Flamenco when I was probably 7—
Q: How did you get into that?
A: I was looking for a new studio because the one that I had been going to, the woman terrified me and kind of made me not want to dance anymore. So, I was looking to switch, but before I committed myself to a studio, I wanted to take a sample class and see how the studio’s vibe was and what their teaching style was like, what the atmosphere of the studio was, ‘cause I didn’t want to bounce right back into another place just like the one I had left. So I went to Guzmán’s out in Fayetteville and took a sample class and the class that they had running at the time was Flamenco. I just kind of kept going with it, and I never really stopped. So then I started taking Spanish and traveling to Spain and studying Flamenco there, and it just kind of evolved.
Q: What is your favorite thing about being here so far?
A: I really like going out into the community and meeting all of the community members. It’s really cool to be around people who really care about their neighborhood and have a strong sense of neighborhood community because growing up, my neighborhood had a very, very strong sense of neighborhood community, and I took that for granted, as like, “Everywhere is like this, and everybody has really great neighbors and knows all of their neighbors and their neighbors birthdays, and that’s just a normal thing. Everybody in the neighborhood is just like their family. Totally.” And then living other places, it just made no sense to me, that people that I went to college with didn’t know the names of any of their neighbors and my boyfriend didn’t know the name of the person who was living directly below him, and I was kind of shocked. So it’s really cool to be back around people who share that strong sense of neighborhood community.
Q: What do you see as being your biggest challenge you will face this year?
A: I would say being able to take all of the big ideas that people, including myself, have, and put them into something that’s actually realistic. Because, it’s very easy to get into this whole, “Yeah, this would be great if we could do this, and add this . . .” and create this really big, ideal world project, and then once you get down to trying to actually implement it, it can be very disheartening if you haven’t really thought about what’s actually realistic. For instance, yes, it would be fantastic if I could get public trashcans all over the Northside. That would be amazing. I would love to do that. But, is that actually realistic? Who’s going to maintain them? There’s a lot of other things that don’t necessarily come up at first, so I think it will be a challenge to keep that in mind and not try and catch a whale instead of a fish . . . I had a ballet teacher, growing up, one of my favorite teachers, who always said, “In an ideal world, this is what would happen.” She was usually referring to, “In an ideal world, you would all have perfect turn out, and be much more flexible than you actually are.” But, her point was just, “This would be ideal, but this is what you have, so work with what you have.” That’s a hard concept to grasp sometimes.
Q: What’s for dinner?
A: Leftover Chinese food from China Café in Armory Square.
Q: What did you get?
A: I . . . (pause) This order is for two people. Just keep that in mind. (Laughter) It’s gonna be a little scary. So, two orders of fried wantons, pork fried wantons, then a large pork lo mein, no vegetable, a large pork fried rice, no vegetable, two egg rolls, a small sweet and sour chicken, and a large General Tso’s chicken. Oh, and two things of white rice.
Q: Does your boyfriend not like vegetables?
A: No. He gets creeped out by the little corns.