LASVP Staff Member Jessica Place is headed off to graduate school at Wake Forest University! First as an AmeriCorps VISTA and then as full-time staff, Jessica has contributed hundreds and hundreds of hours to helping LASVP on everything from Fast Pitch to phone calls to Partner Engagement and beyond.
My post-college trajectory has been a little atypical. After receiving my degree in Women’s & Gender Studies, a discipline that pulls no punches in its critique of both capitalism and the “non-profit industrial complex,” I became an AmeriCorps VISTA serving a philanthropic nonprofit. While most people definitely wouldn’t call a year of living on a meager government stipend “selling out,” many of my college friends—radical queer anarchist-socialists who host monthly vegan potlucks at the indigenous activism collective—thought that working within the bounds of “the system” was a betrayal of my feminist ideals. My next step in my life’s journey seems just as inexplicable to them—I’m bound for a Southern theological school.
I’m so glad that I’ve chosen to follow this path. My time at LASVP has been one of the most valuable learning experiences of my life. Rather than cancelling out my youthful ideals, learning about different theories of social change, and more importantly, how they are put into practice, has enabled me to envision new possibilities that synthesize the best of both worlds. As I move forward in my education and learn how to become a leader and activist in my faith community, I will undoubtedly apply what I have learned in my time with SVP.
Working with LASVP has helped me grow, but more importantly, it’s allowed me to contribute something worthwhile to this community. And the nature of this organization means that my contributions will continue to have a ripple effect after I’ve moved on. One of my favorite organizations I’ve met through LASVP is BTS Communications—I’m a big fan of their work, but they’re also just a fun group of people to be around. LASVP had a fairly light touch on the organization—they were winners at our Fast Pitch in 2010. And yet even that level of involvement has helped them reach new heights—in the year plus that I’ve been in contact with BTS, they’ve received a major grant from the Jewish Community Foundation, moved to a shiny new office space, and published an outstanding 25th anniversary magazine for Beit T’Shuvah. That small seed of help that LASVP planted has definitely helped them accelerate their growth. I’m excited to see how LA Diaper Drive, or Synergy Academies, or any of the other amazing organizations that I’ve had the privilege to get to know, expand and improve in the coming years because of the boost they received from LASVP.
Most importantly, I’m grateful to have met all of the amazing people I’ve connected with through LASVP. I’ve been continually inspired by our Partners, who give their all—not just their “good enough”—to the causes they believe in. They’ve inspired me to make social change a priority, not just an extra-curricular activity, no matter what my job title. They’ve been an example of the power of cooperation and collaboration—LASVP would not work unless people from different backgrounds with different opinions were committed to coming together and working toward a common goal. They’ve also been friendly, caring, and fun to work with—this is a truly outstanding group of people.
Soon I’ll be settled down in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, a location that’s pretty far-flung from L.A., both geographically and culturally. It will be a new experience, but it’s one that I’m looking forward to—and the progressive and diverse community at Wake Forest University’s School of Divinity should be friendly shelter in the midst of the inevitable culture shock. It’s bittersweet saying goodbye to LASVP. I’ll miss all the friendly faces I’m leaving behind. I’ll always look back on my time here fondly—especially when I’m studying for “Readings in Koine Greek” without access to In-n-Out Burger in a climate designated “humid subtropical”—but I’m sure our paths will cross again. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to be a part of this amazing organization.
Everyone at LASVP would like to thank Jessica for all of her hard work and wish her the best of luck for the future!