Sara Melucci is a RICC AmeriCorps*VISTA serving at the Feinstein Institute for Public Service at Providence College. Sara’s work centers on impact assessment in community partnerships. Find out more in Sara’s VISTA Voices story below!
Where did you go to school? Providence College ‘14
What are your personal and professional interests? Experiential learning, social work, research, reflection and dialogue, reading, writing, making music, walking everywhere, life in community
If you could have any super power, what would it be? Flying, I guess! Or, learning a new language really fast.
Story of Service
While my year of service began in August of the past year, the story really begins in my years as an undergraduate at Providence College. Through my social work major and a number of influential jobs and relationships, I developed passions for hearing others’ stories, building community, and seeking to understand what makes for good service. I was both sobered and empowered by experiences of playing a real role in the lives of people and organizations.
Flash forward to graduation season, when I found myself unsure of how to translate these interests into next steps. I was resolved to take any job I could find when I came across a Campus-Community Partnerships AmeriCorps*VISTA position with the Feinstein Institute for Public Service at Providence College. The position would entail interacting with a number of community partners throughout the Providence area, assessing community impact, researching best practices in service-learning community partnerships, and fostering greater collaborations in service both on and off campus.
Before I go on, I’d like to introduce the idea of “rhythm.” I was fortunate to be raised in a rather musical family, and spent much of my childhood hearing music and learning instruments. Rhythm has always been a foundational concept – it’s the driving pattern, movement, or beat in a song. Whether or not you can always hear it explicitly, it’s the heartbeat of the music; it orients the music by bringing life and order and direction.
The Feinstein Institute, as I came to realize, is guided by some of its own rhythms. These include conversation, critical reflection, community-building, and promoting positive change within the local community. They can be found in the Institute’s mission statement, but I came to experience them through the dialogues, relationships, and priorities that the Institute embodies in practice. Like the rhythm of a song, these rhythms provide an underlying beat to the life of our office. Joining this team of compassionate, reflective, and mission-driven practitioners has been an incredibly formative experience, and has challenged me to consider ways that I can translate my own values into rhythms of practice as a developing professional.
Building capacity is something we frequently talk about as VISTAs, and it has been a central theme in my service. My main tasks this year have revolved around helping the Feinstein Institute for Public Service at Providence College develop systems for tracking student service data and assessing our community impact in local service partnerships. I spent several months researching and talking with stakeholders, learning all I could about the nature and potential of campus-community partnerships. What resulted was an exciting interview project with a number of our community partners, asking questions about their work and perspectives on impact. From empowering immigrants and refugees to engaging local youth in intentional after-school programming, our community partners do incredible work, and have much to teach us as we think about our impact. Through an analysis of these initial conversations, I am working to provide the Institute with insight and recommendations for refining the ways we practice assessment, upholding our commitment to building mutually beneficial partnerships. For my service, building capacity means developing assessment systems that are manageable, sustainable, and community-centered, rooted in best practice and the daily rhythms of the Institute.
This VISTA year has been valuable in so many ways. As I continue this work, I am challenged to think critically about how our campuses can adopt rhythms that educate citizens, build bridges, and strengthen communities.