Alyssa De Las Salas learned about AmeriCorps NCCC when a friend served during her freshman year of college. She recalls, “I thought, that looks so interesting… getting to travel across the country and meet new people.” Alyssa finished her bachelor’s degree in psychology, but the opportunity remained buried in her own subconscious. A year or so after graduation, however, she had an existential crisis, unsure what to do next. That’s when she remembered AmeriCorps.
She had enjoyed traveling abroad and felt like traveling within the U.S. was something that would interest her as well. Alyssa recalls, “I started reading more about it and, at the time the age limit was 24, so it felt like my last chance.” She leapt at the NCCC opportunity and thrived. “I got to meet so many interesting people and travel to so many places… The experience was so great,” recalls Alyssa. But her NCCC service term was ten months and, after it ended, she hoped to find a next step that was a little more professional, which is how she discovered AmeriCorps VISTA and became the AmeriCorps VISTA team leader at Serve Virginia.
“My position makes sure that VISTAs have what they need and that they have a happy and successful service year,” says Alyssa. This includes managing anywhere from 12-16 AmeriCorps VISTA members at any given time, serving across Virginia in local nonprofits like Bay Aging in Urbanna as well as state-wide organizations such as the Federation of Virginia Food Banks and Serve Virginia. Each of the VISTAs that she leads has their own AmeriCorps experience, facing unique opportunities and challenges that Alyssa helps address through the very skills that she herself has gained from AmeriCorps, including organization, leadership, and creativity. She adds, “This is my first leadership position in a professional setting and that’s come with its own challenges. I’m not a confrontational person but sometimes you have to be, as a leader.”
Alyssa also manages recruitment of new AmeriCorps VISTA members and sites, which she embraces as an opportunity to help others find their own next step during times of transition. “You want people who are going to stick with the program for the full year and find the experience fulfilling. It’s not a long-term commitment but it gets you in the door and help you find out what your interests are and helps you as a segue to the next path in your life,” she reflects. “We want this program to help them as much as they help us.”
“I love AmeriCorps,” says Alyssa. “It has really given me the best friendships and my relationship came out of it too… A lot of great memories, a lot of great times.” Though her current service term was slated to end in February 2024, she is opting to extend it for the full six months allowed so that she can continue effecting change in her current role. “My time at Serve Virginia has been amazing. They have a plethora of projects in social services that I’m interested in… And having Sam [Lukasiewicz] as a supervisor has been great. I feel supported in all aspects.”
As for what the future holds after AmeriCorps, she’s hesitant to commit just yet. These days, Alyssa says, “I can’t really see myself as a psychologist, but I want to do something that helps people in the long run. Wherever that takes me is where I’ll go.”