VISTA Experience: Janice Ayarzagoitia – From Adler to RefugeeONE
Janice Ayarzagoitia was placed at Adler University as part of ILCC’s VISTA Cohort for the 2016-2017 year. Now, she works for the refugee resettlement agency RefugeeOne. We caught up with her to glean some insights from her reflections on her VISTA year as well as learn more about her work at RefugeeOne.
A friend in my master’s program did a VISTA year in Arizona with public schools and spoke highly of the experience. She encouraged me to apply to positions in Chicago. Adler University stood out to me for its strong focus on social justice and intersectionality.
What was your impact on Adler and vice versa?
One of the most visible impacts I had on Adler University was the relationship building. There had been VISTAs at Adler before me but not for a couple of years. As my year concluded, several departments and centers were seeking VISTAs to join their team, leading to 3 new VISTAs throughout the campus. Reciprocally, I had the opportunity to build friendships with the individuals I worked closely with.
How did your VISTA year prepare you for your current work?
After my VISTA year, I came into my current position with an awareness and acknowledgment of the intricate barriers and systemic issues that permeate our society at a local level, and at a national level. I directly attribute this awareness to my VISTA year particularly working with the Center for Civic Learning and Community Action. I’ve also gained skills in critical thinking and constantly reviewing my work to improve it.
What was your role in bringing Adler University closer to the Chicago Community?
I worked alongside the Manager of Community Partnerships to foster, maintain and create partnerships with nonprofits in the Greater Chicagoland region. First year Adler graduate students would then self-select internships with these partners where they would work directly with the target populations, building relationships with the community and the staff.
What advice would you give to incoming ILCC VISTAs to ensure that they have an enjoyable and productive year?
My advice is to continuously work on having an open-mind, take initiative, seek not only opportunities, but also perspectives, and to be creative and critical with the goal to improve and be inclusive.
What did you learn from your site supervisor that you think will be valuable as you move forward in your career?
One of the most powerful and impactful characteristics of my site supervisor is her critical thinking skills and constant desire to improve and reflect. Beyond reflection, she implements changes and attainable goals.