Shannon Finnell shares her story as a RICC AmeriCorps*VISTA serving in the Salve Regina University Office of Community Service and as an alumna of Salve and Newport community member.
Name: Shannon Finnell
Host Site: Salve Regina University, Office of Community Service
Where did you go to school? Salve Regina University
What are your personal and professional interests?
Personal- Travel, running, reading, and volunteering
Professional- Continue to work in Higher Education
If you could have any super power, what would it be? Teleportation
Story of Service
During my undergraduate career at Salve Regina University, I loved being involved with the Community Service Office. I participated in the Scholarships for Service program, where I completed 300 hours of community service my freshman year. This was a great opportunity to get involved with nonprofits in the community, learn about the poverty affecting Newport, and even get the opportunity to go on a mission trip to New Orleans. Throughout the rest of my college career, I was involved with planning service retreats as a Service Plunge Facilitator and was able to go on an international mission trip to Nicaragua.
Community Service has always been important to me and when I graduated last May I was looking for opportunities to give back to the Newport community. When the AmeriCorps*VISTA opportunity presented itself, I thought it was a unique way to gain professional skills while giving back to the community that I loved so much. What I didn’t realize was how much this position would give to me.
This year has been quite a whirlwind; I am about 9 months into my year-long service commitment. I can’t believe how much I have learned so far and have grown professionally.
In my Vista position I serve as the liaison between nonprofits and students, while creating service events for students and building capacity for Salve’s Office of Community Service. One of my primarily roles was to be the supervisor of two Service Plunge retreats in the fall and in the spring. During these retreats, I supervised student leaders who planned, organized, and implemented these retreats. One new addition I worked on this year was to host a planning retreat for these student leaders to get to know one another, meet with community partners, learn more about Newport, and plan logistically the service retreat for their fellow students. This new facilitator retreat created a strong bond between the students and helped them learn about the poverty facing Newport, which inspired them to keep volunteering.
I have also built capacity for our office by creating a spring break mission trip to Washington D.C. This was a service experience that our University had never done before, and was actually the first domestic trip that our office offered outside the Newport community in the past 4 years. This was a huge growing experience for me to be able to plan and implement this retreat. It was amazing to watch ten students learn about the many social issues facing our country today and be able to give back to a new community through service.
Thus far, I think the most important thing I have accomplished is to inspire the students I have worked with to keep volunteering and giving back. It is something so simple but truly so important. It’s the students who make a difference and have made my year so worthwhile. This AmeriCorps*VISTA position has shown me that I would love to continue working in higher education and that volunteering is so important. Service is what brings a community together and I am so happy to have been able to be a part of both Newport and Salve’s communities this year!