AmeriCorps VISTA Spotlight on Natasha Phillips


Name: Natasha Phillips 

Hometown: Pittsburgh, PA

VISTA Organization: Opening Doors

When did your service start? 11/2015

What are you currently working on at your organization? At the moment, I spend most of my time grant writing and assisting the staff immigration attorney with casework. I hope to go to law school in a few years, so this has been invaluable experience for me. I also assist with fundraising event planning, and am finishing up a data compilation project for one of our programs. 

Why did you decide to be an AmeriCorps VISTA in Sacramento? After returning from a year working in the Middle East, I wanted to work for an organization that served refugee populations. I applied to a few refugee-serving organizations through VISTA, and got a call from this one! California didn’t sound too bad either. 

What have been some of the greatest triumphs during your year of a VISTA? I wrote the majority of an $870,000 5-year grant that we received for our microenterprise program for refugees! I also improved our refugee cultural orientation and the forms in our survivors of human trafficking program by incorporating financial capability training. This may not sound impressive, but I’d been researching how to integrate financial capability into our social service programs for a long time, and these are personal victories.  

What have been some of the challenges you encountered and how did you overcome and/or learn from them? The greatest challenge for me has been working in an unstructured position. I’ve had to develop my projects from scratch and sometimes create work for myself, which has been a difficult and useful learning experience. Working without deadlines has also been a struggle for me. These difficulties have taught me what work styles work for me, and what kind of working environments I need to facilitate for myself in order to be successful. Also, as I became more familiar with Opening Doors and its staff, it became easier to figure out how to use my empty time to assist the organization.  

What is a 5 word statement to sum up your whole VISTA experience thus far? Interesting learning with programmatic flaws. 

What is your favorite thing about living in Sacramento? The people! I’ve had great luck meeting interesting, down-to-earth people. Also, Sacramento has enough happening without the costs and stresses of a big city. 

Next Steps: What are you thinking about doing after your year as a VISTA? I’m currently applying for legislative and legal positions in Sacramento in order to gain more legal experience, and I’m considering taking some time off to study for the LSAT. Additionally, I’m applying for a few jobs abroad related to refugees. We’ll see what works out!