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View from VISTA: Blythe at United Way of Southern Nevada’s Volunteer Center

October 16, 2012

Name: Blythe Cherney

Hometown: Visalia, California

Host Site: United Way of Southern Nevada– Volunteer Center

What is your favorite aspect about your AmeriCorps VISTA position?  My position as a VISTA at United Way of Southern Nevada’s Volunteer Center has thus far offered an incredible introduction to the Las Vegas Valley.  I have served at events all over the city, met many wonderful people, and learned so much about this new community of mine in just a couple months of serving here.  Part of my introduction to the community has involved presenting about volunteerism to area high school students, which I love.  High school students have so much to offer this community. 

What’s one reason you think people should volunteer with the organization where you’re serving?  UWSN’s Volunteer Center is very unique in that it helps facilitate volunteer opportunities at many nonprofits around the Las Vegas Valley.  I think people should really take advantage of the Volunteer Center website to find volunteer opportunities and learn more about local nonprofits.  It is a great tool for volunteers and nonprofits to connect.

What project or event are you really looking forward to this year and why?  A central part of my VISTA service at the UWSN Volunteer Center is coordinating a high school volunteer and recognition program called Next Generation Actively Gaining Experience (NGAGE).  I am really looking forward to the recognition event in April so we can acknowledge the accomplishments of area high school students.

If you’re new to Las Vegas, what are your first impressions of the community?  One of the more odd first impressions I had about Las Vegas was how central cars are to life here.  Before moving to Las Vegas, I used to commute by bike and bus.  I realize that that is not necessarily the norm in the US, but I was still surprised when I looked up how long it would take me to get to work by bus in Las Vegas—it would take 3 hours!  By car it takes just 20 minutes.  I’m fortunate to have access to a car, but I can’t help but think about the challenge it would pose to individuals who don’t, especially because Las Vegas is a very spread out city. 

What is something you want people who don’t live in Las Vegas to know about this community?  I am still completely in awe of the size of Clark County School District, which encompasses Las Vegas.  I don’t think many people outside Las Vegas know that CCSD is the fifth largest school district in the U.S.  You can imagine the challenges that would arise in a district of such size.

What do you wish other people knew about the nonprofit or its cause?  I think a lot of people have heard of United Way, but don’t know exactly what it does.  In Southern Nevada, its impact areas of education, health, financial stability, and immediate needs cover a lot of ground.  UWSN makes an impact in so many different ways, from early childhood education centers to free tax preparation for low income individuals.  This video explains it in a way that is much cooler than I can:  

In your opinion, what is the most important work that this organization does? As you can probably tell from my earlier answers, I think that education is central to a community’s success, and nowhere more so than in Las Vegas.  I think that the resources UWSN provides in the area of education are incredible and diverse and so fully represent the mission of United Way.  And, better yet, all the impact areas reach into education.  For example, UWSN has created a program to provide financial literacy to elementary school students, trains early childhood teachers, engages families to encourage academic success and help their high school students graduate, and established dental and health clinics at low income schools.  And, I’m lucky enough to be part of the team that is helping to teach the importance of community service to high school students and recognizing them for their achievements in volunteerism. 

This is the scond in a series profiling the 14 AmeriCorps VISTAs serving in Southern Nevada during the 2012-13 year.  For more information on AmeriCorps VISTA and national service opportunties in Southern Nevada, click here.

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