As I write this, I am within the middle of my second real week of my service as a VISTA in a place difficult to explain to my friends and family back in Alabama, why I chose to relocate and serve in a place so far away from the state of Alabama and with winters far colder than what is typical of winters here in Alabama. However, despite the learning curve in learning what it takes to be a VISTA especially since it is my first year to ever serve, I know in my heart why I am here serving the No Kid Hungry program here in Helena, Montana. I am here because I was called to serve here in Montana and to continue fighting food insecurity as a societal problem and to best do this, I needed to broaden my horizons and to take an opportunity few if any had ever taken within Hanceville, Alabama, a small town with a population of approximately 3,000 people had ever taken.  I am serving here today in Montana, mainly because I believe personally that by choosing to be the first one in my entire family including extended family to take the physical and spiritual journey that I have now started, I can set an example for future generations within my family to follow.

I ultimately feel that I was guided to eventually do this and I believe that it is from following my gut that I have come to make the decisions I have made in recent times. I think that by starting my journey in Montana it allows for me to take what I have learned when serving here with No Kid Hungry and to later apply what I have learned to the future not only to the community where I am from originally, but into my own personal life as well. It also helps me get an even better feel for the complexities of working within a school system in regard to meal planning for kids in school, something in which I knew was, and still is, a complicated matter so I could better fight those challenges in getting food served to schoolkids coming from low-income families. While I am aware I am simply just one man and I am by no means, Superman, I do feel that at the very least I can at least contribute some of my time and effort towards something I feel is worth fighting for especially when it relates to food.

I have a lot to learn in regard to serving as a VISTA, and yet I have already learned so much within my short time here in Montana and I feel that this is arguably the best decision I have ever made even with its personal struggles. I recently went to the Lewis & Clark ToastMaster’s Club for instance as a guest and in truth, I wasn’t sure what I was to expect, it was a relatively small group of people at the meeting, but I’m very glad that I went since public speaking, is something I am typically a bit shy about. I watched as people within the club almost transform into different people when they got up from the table to the podium which was inspiring to me as I am typically kind of shy, but I want to be more assertive and confident when speaking publicly.  It is these little events that I probably would have never went out on my own and done had I not chosen to serve as a VISTA within Montana that really motivate me to keep pushing forward to be the best self that I can be. 

Steven Mann
PRC AmeriCorps VISTA serving with Montana No Kid Hungry
Helena, MT