Wendolyn2A Tennessee native, Ebbert attended a magnet school where playing a sport was required. She dabbled in all sorts of sports and thrived off the life skills she learned along the way. Her older brother attended NYU and on a visit, she fell in love with the city and knew she wanted to attend college there. Not wanting debt to consume her post-graduation plans, she decided on a CUNY school, and was so happy she did. In her senior year, she decided she wanted to join the Peace Corps after she graduated. The International Studies major felt compelled to go abroad and make a difference in the lives of those in need around the world.

After some reflection, however, she changed her mind when she realized there was poverty, homelessness and hunger right here in America. She changed her focus to AmeriCorps, which gave her the opportunity to serve those in need in her home country. She applied on the VISTA website to a number of organizations whose work focused on youth development. She was hired by New Heights Youth – a non-profit sports-based youth development and educational organization in Harlem.

As their Development and Communications Associate, Ebbert was tasked with grant writing, report submissions and event planning. From the start, she was given substantial responsibilities and the freedom to manage projects and tasks on her own. She loved the autonomy, as well as the close-knit group of staff she was welcomed into from the start. When the opportunity presented itself to stay on as a full-time employee at the end of her service term, there was no hesitation: Wendolyn wanted to stay. “In just one year, I was given a huge opportunity to grow – I’m a different person now that when I started,” she says. Her VISTA year made her feel ready to handle the next phase of her career, right where she had served for a year: New Heights Youth.

Now as the Marketing Director and just four months removed from her service term, she reflected back on her experience: “I’ve made lifelong friends and having this community gives you hope there are other people out there giving back. It’s hard to be a VISTA, it’s uncomfortable, but they make sure to create a community and make you know that you’re not alone.” Loving her new role and what she brings to the table, Wendolyn is extremely happy. She is also currently studying for the GRE, with plans to attend graduate school in the fall of 2018 to get her Masters Degree in Public Policy. She’s not sure yet where it will take her, but she’s confident she has the important skills she’ll need once she’s there, thanks to VISTA.

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Read more about how Up2Us Sports VISTAs are turning their service year into full-time careers.