August AmeriCorps*VISTA Spotlight: Ria Matheson

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 900 volunteers and leverage over 325 thousand dollars in cash and in-kind donations.

This month the OCCE is happy to introduce Ria Matheson, the 2020-21 AmeriCorps VISTA with The WFU Office of Civic and Community Engagement. 

In her role, Matheson manages the WFU High Skill Volunteer Network, writes monthly spotlight articles, and assists with reporting data. 

Ria Matheson, 2020-2021 AmeriCorps VISTA at the Wake Forest Office of Civic and Community Engagement

Matheson, RiaHometown: Midlothian, Va
Alma Mater: Wake Forest University (‘20)
Degree: Bachelor of Arts in Theatre
Favorite place in Winston-Salem: the lower lobby of Scales Fine Arts Center

Why did you join AmeriCorps VISTA?

I stumbled across AmeriCorps VISTA by accident. When the pandemic began in March 2020, my job search came to a screeching halt. I had been applying for acting apprenticeships at various regional theatres, but when Broadway shut down they followed suit and decided not to hire any apprentices. I had to start looking in different fields, and when I saw the OCCE’s Instagram post about AmeriCorps I decided to look into it. 

One of the things I love most about theatre is telling untold, underrepresented stories, and with AmeriCorps VISTA I was able to not just tell those stories but influence how they end. That felt really powerful to me, so I applied. It was one of the best things that came out of the pandemic for me.

What would you say was the highlight of your 2020-2021 VISTA year?

The highlight of my year has been writing the monthly VISTA Member spotlight articles. This year’s cohort hasn’t had the chance to interact much with one another due to the pandemic, so being able to sit down with everyone and talk to them for an hour has been wonderful. It’s also given me some insight into the great work that my fellow cohort members are doing, which I’ve really enjoyed.

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

I would say that even if you’re not sure that working in the nonprofit sector is for you, there is a lot of value to gain from an AmeriCorps service year. I’ve gained so many skills that are applicable to many different fields, and I know that they will serve me well in the future. 

As your AmeriCorps VISTA year of service comes to its end, what are your plans for the future?

I will be performing as a part of the Carowinds Entertainment Division and preparing for graduate school auditions.