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VISTA Spotlight: The Greatest Opportunity

December 6, 2011

The holiday season is in full swing and nonprofit organizations all over the city are sending out calls for volunteers. One of these nonprofits, Opportunity Village, is famous for its Magical Forest, but will soon become well-known for it’s incredible performing arts program. Paul Garlin, an AmeriCorps VISTA member, is serving as the Office Assistant to Krysti Gabriel, the enthusiastic, dedicated director of Opportunity Village’s performing arts program.

Though Paul is not a native of Las Vegas, he has lived in the city for a number of years and wanted to give back to his community.   Before hearing about his current AmeriCorps position, Paul planned to volunteer at Opportunity Village. He was so impressed by their work in the community and overwhelmed by how many programs they offered including Job Discovery for high school special education students, Art Enrichment, Document Destruction, Vocational Assessment, Retail and Custodial Training, and more. Opportunity Village also provides services for people with more complex disabilities through their community-based habilitation programs. “I feel the most important thing that Opportunity Village does is help people to be as independent as possible,” Paul said. “By giving individuals the chance to learn, grow, and become productive, Opportunity Village not only helps them achieve their dreams, but also allows the community to see what they are capable of.”

Though they already do so many wonderful things, Opportunity Village continues to expand. Thanks to the acquisition of an impressive grant, the V.I.A. (Very Important Arts) program now provides fine art, dance, music, & theatre classes at not cost to students, ages 6 to 17, in Clark County school special education classes. Also, funds are being raised to build an innovative Life Learning Park for Clark County citizens with disabilities. The park will offer life and social skill training programs for children and adults as well as serve as a wonderful venue for family respite. Construction begins in 2012.

“Every minute at Opportunity Village is priceless,” Paul said. “When an individual with a disability greets me or thanks me, I know that I am truly lucky. To them, I am a hero, but in reality, every person served by Opportunity Village is a hero to me. Having the opportunity to share this time with them is truly life changing.  I wouldn’t trade this experience for anything.”

(Photo: student artist Rosie Scalf with her outline on canvas on the Las Vegas Strip. Passers-by filled in the outline with colors of their choosing. Paintings and scarves made by Art Enrichment participants can be purchased from $15 and up. Half of the proceeds go to the artist and the other half help keep the program running)

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