Meet VISTA Alum Laura Linder Scholer
Laura Linder Scholer served with the Minnesota Literacy Council in 2011-2012 at ThreeSixty Journalism and as the VISTA Leader in 2012-2013. Laura now works as the Sexual Violence Prevention & Response Coordinator for the Minnesota Office of Higher Education. We had the opportunity to ask Laura about her VISTA experience and why the Alum Circle is important to her. Read more below!
What did your VISTA service mean to you at the time and how does it continue to affect your career choices and life in general?
When I applied to serve as an AmeriCorps VISTA member, I was fresh out of college and feeling unsure of my next professional steps or career goals. At the time, I saw my VISTA service as a meaningful commitment but also a sort of "gap year" between my schooling and my "real" career. Looking back, I have a much clearer sense of the immense personal and professional value in my VISTA service. It was a time of rich career exploration, skill building, fantastic networking and professional development. I can't imagine any other job or opportunity that would have give me so many diverse experiences to "test out the water" in different functional areas, especially as I was just starting to develop my relevant work experiences. Through my service, I learned that I liked working directly with students on an individual level, I preferred working with older students and that I didn't like marketing or volunteer coordination as much as I thought I might. These realizations led me to pursue graduate work in English and student affairs, and a career working on a college campus. Without my VISTA experience, I think it would have taken me a lot longer to figure out what I really wanted and felt called to do, and to start intentionally working towards that by building relevant work skills and experiences.
Why did you decide to become a VISTA Alum Circle founding member?
I decided to become a VISTA Alum Circle founding member for two main reasons: to stay connected to the important work being done by current VISTA members and Minesota Literacy Council staff and to give back by supporting current VISTA members however I can. When I was serving as a VISTA member, I learned so much and benefitted tremendously from other VISTA alums and mentors who were willing to share their insights, advice, ideas, skills and expertise. I'd like to be able to pay their generosity forward now, to honor the positive impact that VISTA had on my life.
What did you enjoy about last year's Beyond Words Bash, and if you are planning on attending this year, what are you looking forward to about this year's Bash?
I had such a blast a last year's inaugural Beyond Words Bash! I already knew that VISTA members and the Minnesota Literacy Council do incredible and important work in our communities and state, but there is something especially compelling and humanizing about bringing together so many people to celebrate this work. At last year's event, I heard moving first-hand stories of how individuals and families' lives have been transformed, I met other volunteers and donors and VISTA alum in person for the first time, and I was inspired to reflect on the "big picture" of why and how we are working for social change. Also, to be honest, I'm always at least a little bit in it for the food (and drinks and music and party...which were so fun). I can't wait to attend again this year!