In 2023 the Latin American Association is excited to bring back the AmeriCorps VISTA program. This program originated under President John F. Kennedy and was enacted under the Johnson administration in 1965 as a domestic version of the Peace Corps. VISTAs, or Volunteers in Service to America, serve with organizations working to alleviate poverty in their communities by completing capacity-building projects.
Lina Teitelbaum came to the LAA as a former police officer recruit looking for a new opportunity to serve the community when an AmeriCorps VISTA opening at the LAA caught her attention. The program aligned with her values and identity as a Latina and Colombiana who had grown up in Loganville, GA, after leaving Colombia at a young age. From 2016-17, Lina served as the LAA Outreach Coordinator through the VISTA program. During her service, she created and strengthened partnerships between the LAA, community organizations, and the greater metro Atlanta community.
“My time as a VISTA at the LAA was a beginning of a lot of my growth,” Lina said. She had left the career she’d known and jumped into something, unlike anything she’d done before. “It was so amazing to get to be out in the [Georgia Latino] community.” During her term of service, Lina got to explore all areas of the LAA’s major scope of work. She gravitated towards event planning for big events like the LAA’s Compañeros Awards Luncheon, and annual fundraising gala, Latin Fever Ball, among others. These activities led her to her next steps as an event manager at the LAA and the Gwinnett Chamber.
Lina’s rich career in public service and community building has brought her to her current position as Associate Program Manager for Equity, Diversity & Inclusion at TripAdvisor. Thinking back to her experiences at the LAA, she said, “It’s kind of crazy [to think] I was working with so many Latinos [at the LAA]… I was able to be authentic and love every aspect of who Lina from Colombia was. Throughout the years, I’ve learned that that’s how everyone should feel at their job no matter where they work.”
Lina recounted one memorable experience during her VISTA term, where she participated in the annual DeKalb County Homelessness Count. “You may think you know poverty, but then you realize that poverty comes in many shapes and forms. It can be really humbling,” she said. “Just because you drive by [a homeless encampment] doesn’t mean that you understand.”
Lina recommends serving as a VISTA for those who are dedicated to service, as well as those who are searching for a greater purpose through their work. “It’s a great way to give back to your community,” she said. “It’s a great way to help others learn about what nonprofits like the LAA do… if you’re in a place in your life where you’re not really sure about your next steps. There’s no better way to figure that out than by serving your community through a program like VISTA – especially if you have the opportunity to do it.”
To see current VISTA positions open at the LAA, please visit our Careers page.