Sara Melucci is wrapping up her second year as the Campus-Community Partnerships AmeriCorps*VISTA at the Feinstein Institute for Public Service at Providence College. In this role, Sara develops and deepens PC’s partnerships with the Providence community at-large.
Name: Sara Melucci
Host Site: Feinstein Institute for Public Service, Providence College
Where did you go to school? Providence College ‘14
What are your personal and professional interests? Community building & community-based learning, social work, research & evaluation, critical reflection & dialogue, playing instruments, making music with people, walking, outdoor adventuring, enjoying the great little city of Providence
If you could have any super power, what would it be? Several have already mentioned being omni-lingual, and I’d have to agree! This probably says a lot about our work and career interests.
Story of Service: Two years ago, around this time, I was given the opportunity to serve as a Rhode Island Campus Compact VISTA member with the Feinstein Institute for Public Service at Providence College. They have been two terms filled with new learning, great people, and meaningful work. As I wrap up my VISTA experience, I cannot help but take some time to look back and reflect.
From its beginnings in 1993 until today, the work of the Feinstein Institute has been built on a foundation of community partnership, critical reflection, and relationship-building. It’s written into our DNA and it drives the work that we do. It has been a privilege to enter into that story, to encounter the challenges and opportunities of partnership, and to meet some incredible community leaders along the way.
In my work as the Campus-Community Partnerships VISTA, I worked closely with our Assistant Director to increase transparency and deepen community impact in our local service-learning partnership work. That broad focus translated into many different projects which all centered around that common goal. Between some campus-wide collaborations in local service, new communication tools, improvements to the ways we assess our community impact, and the development of written agreements to ground each of our local partnerships, some structure has been laid. Sometimes the progress can feel slow, but I think that gradual and intentional change is often the most sustainable and meaningful.
A consistent theme in my work as a VISTA has been the asset-based approach to community development. Put simply, it is a framework for working in community that assumes abundance, potential, and strength, rather than scarcity, weakness, and deficit. As VISTAs, our work is naturally built around a need, but by learning to view our communities as places that are asset-rich, the work of community development and positive change becomes inseparable from relationship-building and partnership. How can we be cultivators, facilitators, and connectors as we work with communities? How can we be service leaders who leave communities empowered, rather than disempowered? To be in an environment that has encouraged me to ask these difficult questions has been a real privilege for which I am very grateful. They are questions that I will continue carrying with me as I move ahead.