Gretta Schaaf is currently serving as the Civic Engagement, College Access & Persistence VISTA with the Feinstein Institute for Public Service at Providence College and the youth non-profit, Young Voices. In this role, Gretta connects and liaises for both organizations, deepening the connections between university and community partners in order to support young people in Rhode Island’s core cities get and stay on a path to college.
Name: Gretta Schaaf
Host Site: My VISTA position is housed at Providence College’s Feinstein Institute for Public Service, but I spend about half of my time off-campus serving with Young Voices (YV), one of the Institute’s developing partners. YV is a statewide non-profit organization that empowers urban high school students to become confident civic leaders in their communities.
Where did you go to school? I graduated in May 2015 from Providence College (Go friars!) where I majored in Public & Community Service studies and minored in Political Science and Public Administration.
What are your personal and professional interests? In my personal time, I enjoy hiking, cheering for the PC Friars athletic teams, and reading Parker Palmer with a cup of chai tea.
Professionally, I am committed to community engagement around issues of urban education, youth development and justice. I’m invested in expanding college access and success for all students with a particular interest in the intersection of policy and practice. As an aspiring educator and lifelong learner, I find myself constantly craving new spaces to learn, reflect, collaborate, challenge, imagine and advocate for what we believe can be, not simply what is.
If you could have any super power, what would it be? Omni-linguist: speak any language at any time!
Story of Service:
I serve quite simply because I deeply believe in every young person and their right to an equal, robust education. I value youth voice, power, and ideas. I believe in strengthening our schools and communities – with our youth – to give all students an opportunity to thrive regardless of race, class, zip code, and gender (to name a few). I believe as humans and neighbors we are bound and responsible to each other and to do better. We can unify our schools and communities or we can keep them divided and broken.
In my role as an AmeriCorps*VISTA, I get to work with a dynamic team of young leaders, passionate educators, organizers and partners. My VISTA position is shared between the Feinstein Institute for Public Service at Providence College and Young Voices, a statewide nonprofit empowering urban youth to become confident civic leaders in their communities. Together, we are co-designing programming and conducting research to improve college access and persistence. I believe strongly in the model of connecting community-based organizations, like Young Voices, with institutions of higher education, like Providence College. It has been invaluable to work in collaboration with and to understand college access from both a high school perspective and a higher education perspective.
Ultimately, I serve to be the best version of myself, and I serve to ensure that all the students and community members that I work with can be the best versions of themselves, too. I know what it looks and feels like when young people are leading engaged, productive and meaningful lives (it’s awesome!). I also know what it looks and feels like when young people are disengaged, distrusted and oppressed (it’s not awesome). It’s not rocket science–I serve because I want to live in communities where the former is the norm. It’s not just better for the individual; it’s better for all of us.