April AmeriCorps*VISTA Spotlight: Katie Hilderbrand

AmeriCorpsVISTA Member Spotlight

The Winston-Salem Community Action Coalition consists of 18 AmeriCorps Volunteers in Service to America (VISTA) members sponsored by the Office of Civic & Community Engagement (OCCE) at Wake Forest University. 

Members are placed in full-time, capacity-building roles with community organizations throughout Winston-Salem in the areas of educational equity, economic empowerment, and health and food justice. United by their passion to make a difference, VISTA members have vowed to complete a year of national service and create meaningful change in Winston-Salem and beyond.

Since August, VISTA members have helped Winston-Salem community partners engage with over 500 volunteers and leverage over 300 thousand dollars in cash and in-kind donations.

This month the OCCE is happy to introduce Katie Hilderbrand, the 2020-21 AmeriCorps VISTA with The Shalom Project; a local nonprofit that challenges the cycle of poverty with a spirit of inclusion, compassion, and justice.

In her role, Hilderbrand works as an outreach associate through social media management, project management, and curriculum and assessment building. 

Hilderbrand, Katie_VISTA HeadshotKatie Hilderbrand, 2020-2021 AmeriCorps VISTA at The Shalom Project
Hometown: Dallas, Ga.
Alma Mater: Salem College (‘17), University of South Florida (‘20)
Degree: Bachelor of Science in biology, Bachelor of Arts and Master of Arts in sociology
Favorite place in North Carolina: Pilot Mountain

Why did you join AmeriCorps VISTA?

After finishing my master’s this past summer I wanted a break from academia. I had been in that world for a long time and missed the boots-on-the-ground connection to people, so I was actively looking for work that would not only positively impact people’s lives, but provide that connection. 

 I was particularly excited about the Winston-Salem Community Action Coalition because of my ties to the city from my time at Salem College. Working as an AmeriCorps VISTA has allowed me to not only have that impact and make those connections, but to do it all in a fulfilling way. In addition, it has allowed me to gain experience and build skills that I can use in my future endeavors to help people in the future. 

What would you say is the highlight of your 2020-2021 VISTA year so far?

One of the main highlights of this year has been seeing the growth of the curriculum and infrastructure for the Flourish Initiative come together. The Flourish Initiative challenges cycles of poverty through personal and community wellness, and the curriculum was being redesigned at the same time that the pandemic hit. This is the first time the initiative has implemented a hybrid structure, and it’s working really well to support the sense of community in addition to the health of the participants.

Talking to participants and hearing what they are enjoying about their experience has been great. When we were building the pieces behind the scenes there was a lot of concern that things wouldn’t work as well as they have, especially in this virtual environment, but knowing that people are progressing and connecting with the information that has been put together has been really fulfilling.

What would you want people to know that want to get involved in AmeriCorps VISTA?

If you’re interested in learning more about AmeriCorps VISTA, the best thing you can do is to talk to current VISTA members and VISTA leaders. Talking to the people who are currently serving gives you a great sense of what the community and the work will be like. It also allows you to see if VISTA is the best option for where you see yourself going in the future. It’s a wonderful opportunity and a great experience, but talking to current members is the best way to see if it will be fulfilling for you and your career goals.

To connect with current members of the Winston-Salem Community Action Coalition, please contact VISTA Leader, Maggie Latta-Milord.