AmeriCorps VISTA on Melissa Davidson


Name: Melissa Davidson

Hometown: San Jose, CA

VISTA Site: Women’s Empowerment

When did your service start? November 2015

What are you currently working on at your organization?
Currently, I’m working on building a social enterprise through Women’s Empowerment (WE) by improving systems and structures, and generating sales of a business that was donated to WE by a long-time volunteer. The Get A Job Kit is an all-in-one job seeking tool that is assembled by graduates of WE’s core program through a 4-week paid training program. Through increased sales, we hope to be able to fund transitional employment for women rather than a short term paid training.

Why did you decide to be an AmeriCorps VISTA in Sacramento?
I have lived in Sacramento since 2009 and graduated from Sac State last year, so it was a seamless transition for me to stay for an AmeriCorps term.

What have been some of the greatest triumphs during your year of a VISTA?
I have been able to generate a lot of customers and interest for the Get A Job Kit through targeting and reaching out to Counties in California. The Get A Job Kit team and I have managed to get the kit incorporated into the employment services of about 6 counties, and am working on finalizing orders with others. If these orders get finalized we will have exceeded our goals for 2016 already, and I’m eager to try to double them. I feel proud to have acquired more customers, and taken us one step closer to being able to offer transitional employment to women with the largest barriers to employment.

I also created and designed two aspects of the kit that cater to youth and re-entry populations. The youth insert was sent to a middle school and is used by over 250 middle students, and we have sent out a number of re-entry kits to individuals. While I never would have guessed I would be doing that, it feels good to have added some skills to my toolbox.      

What have been some of the challenges you encountered and how did you overcome and/or learn from them?
I think adjusting to having a big girl job has been rough on me and I’m still working on ways to deal with that. I also work as a server a few nights per week to pay bills and fund my love for craft beer and adventures. It’s difficult to find the time for health, fitness, and a social life, but I think this is a great opportunity to learn how to manage my time, not eat my feelings, and appreciate the resources I do have.

Also, perhaps because of too many adventures, my car has decided to wait until I’m working for AmeriCorps pay to present me with a myriad of complications, so it has been a really good time figuring out how to face that challenge. At this point in my life, I’m learning that attitude is everything, and I have chosen to maintain my positivity thru ought. 

What is a 5 word statement to sum up your whole VISTA experience thus far?
Will there be (free) food?

What is your favorite thing about living in Sacramento?
Trees! I also love living in midtown because everything is in walking distance, and there are a lot of friendly cats in the neighborhood. Although I have been spoiled a little, and if you invite me somewhere that requires driving I probably won’t go.

Next Steps: What are you thinking about doing after your year as a VISTA?
I’d like to pursue a career in sales.  My dream is to work as a sales rep for a local brewery somewhere that is not California.(Not that I don’t totally love it here, I’m just ready for a change)