It’s AmeriCorps VISTA week!

At 826LA, we are fortunate to have VISTA support. And this year, we have the added support of a Public Allies service member. Their work is extremely important to the sustainability of our work, especially in programming and outreach efforts—a constant need at any non-profit!

Our VISTAs have served many different roles, and currently we have the support of Andrea Mendez as our AmeriCorps VISTA Marketing & Communications Coordinator. Andrea was born and raised in Anaheim, CA, and recently graduated from MidAmerica Nazarene University (MNU) in Kansas. At MNU, Andrea played a big role in her university’s Student Diversity Council, promoting diversity and inclusion throughout the Kansas City area. While earning her B.A in Marketing and Communications, Andrea worked and volunteered with several non-profit organizations and campus clubs developing a passion for community building and serving others. She is excited to mix her two passions of marketing and non-profit work as the Communications and Marketing Coordinator (AmericCorps VISTA) for 826LA. In her free time, Andrea enjoys thrift shopping for room decor and new outfits, casually referencing Nacho Libre quotes in everyday conversations, and taking photos with her dog, Moni. Andrea’s favorite thing about 826LA is the sense of community the organization brings to volunteers, staff, students, and their families alike.

Maricruz Pool-Chan joined 826LA as the Volunteer Coordinator with Public Allies/ AmeriCorps. She was born and raised in the Westlake/Pico Union area near Downtown Los Angeles. In 2017, she earned her degree in Ethnic Studies and an Education minor from the University of California, Berkeley. Her experience as a volunteer in various organizations in the Bay Area led her to become interested in working with students and within the field of education. After completing a research project on migration in Mexico and moving back to LA, she began to look for opportunities to give back to her community, which lead her to an internship at 826LA. When not at 826LA, Maricruz is brushing up on her baking skills by watching cooking shows, specifically The Great British Bake Off.



VISTAs are volunteers in service to America. John F. Kennedy conceived of this domestic PeaceCorps in order to address poverty in the US directly. President Johnson welcomed first VISTAs in 1965. These service members help the capacity and long-term sustainability of the work we do everyday.

826LA is fortunate enough to maintain a VISTA program that has served various facets of our organization, from building capacity around programming and volunteering to marketing and communication efforts. This AmeriCorps Week, we’re happy to honor all our remarkable AmeriCorps and Public Allies members, and alums, whose strong commitment to service, eradicating poverty, and education benefits our community and our entire nation in so many ways. Andrea and Maricruz are creating a positive impact on the community while serving in these government service roles.

Previous VISTA, Raquel Olvera, shared, “As an AmeriCorps VISTA at 826LA, I felt a part of not only a community of creative and compassionate people dedicated to change, but I felt welcomed by a community of writers. Working alongside many talented student writers, volunteers, and staff members emboldened me in my own creative pursuits and propelled me forward in my career. I will forever be grateful for my time spent at 826LA.”

Charissa Ng, also a previous VISTA, reflected, “My year as a VISTA allowed me to go beyond my experience as an 826LA volunteer and learn about the invaluable day-to-day work that’s involved in running a successful local non-profit.”

We asked our current service members a couple of questions…

What led you to the VISTA program?

Andrea: Most of my part-time jobs throughout college were at non-profit organizations. I then transferred to a tiny Christian University for my degree, and I got introduced to more non-profits through clubs and classes. It was very rewarding seeing impacts made for each organization. I made it a goal to work for a nonprofit after college. I made a few Google searches, after seeing that some jobs were available exclusively to “Americorps VISTAs,” and learned what it was all about. I wanted to be a part of it and applied, and the rest is history!

What led you to the Public Allies program?

Maricruz: The opportunity to be able to gain new experiences and the possibility of doing that here at 826LA.

What is your favorite part of being in Los Angeles?

Andrea: My favorite part about being back in California is definitely my mother’s food. Yup…my tight jeans that no longer fit could vouch for that! My dog, Moni I also love having around. The weather is nice too.

Maricruz: I love that it’s such a big city and that you get to explore new places and areas, even when I have grown up my entire life here.

What did you think of Portland when you trained there?

Andrea: I was first assigned to do my Pre Service Orientation (PSO) online, but l was luckily sent to Portland last minute. VISTA training truly felt like summer camp. It was a bunch of adults with the shared goal of serving others and putting an end to poverty staying in a remote airport hotel and for three-day experience where we learned how we can better accomplish our goal. Most of the trainees at PSO were from the 826 network, so there was lots of pride in the air. My roommate for the week, Sherell from 826 Boston, introduced me the other VISTAs in her chapter and we hit it off! We explored Portland together and shared our fears and expectations for our year. We were informed at the end of PSO that we were the last group of VISTAs to travel to a location for training due to government budget cuts. It was an amazing way to prepare for the year of service. I hope future VISTAs will have the opportunity to experience again one day.

What is your favorite movie and quote from that movie?

Andrea: This is probably the hardest question so far because I can basically quote all of Nacho Libre. It is just SO GOOD! But for the sake of time and potential embarrassment, I have to say my favorite Nacho Libre quote is Ignacio’s,“Beneath the clothes, we find a man. And beneath the man…we find…his nucleus.”If we want to be deep: “I am the gatekeeper of my own destiny and I will have my glory day in the hot sun.”

Maricruz: Honestly, I don’t have one favorite movie. I like a lot of films and one of the quotes that I remember a lot due to how much I am an MCU fan is “That man is playing Galaga! Thought we won’t notice, but we did,” from The Avengers.

What were your impressions of 826LA before you started, and what are they now that you are here?

Andrea: This is going to be a rewarding place to work. Turns out, this is super fun and rewarding place to work!

Maricruz: I thought it was a incredible organization, especially to inspire students to be able to write and get published at a young age. Now that I am here, I still think the same, but I am also impressed about the amount of work and dedication that goes into making these student publications possible.

Do you have a favorite 826LA moment?

Andrea: I think every time I meet an 826LA teen student that has been involved with our programs for years and hear them speak is great. They are usually way more well-spoken and confident then I ever was their age. I am strong believer that 826LA has given them a platform and space where they can feel supported to express themselves around others! I love it.

Maricruz: My favorite moment was during a Field Trip. Professor Barnacle was being introduced for the first time and seeing the reaction of the students on having a professor that was in their words “a girl” was incredible because it showed how the character would give the students and the volunteers an opportunity to make that character their own.

What is your favorite song this month?

Andrea: Anything on the Thank U, Next album by Ariana Grande. Each song fits every life situation.

Maricruz: De Musica Ligera by Soda Stereo

Interested in learning more about AmeriCorps VISTA? Click here or sign-up to volunteer with 826LA!

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