Summer VISTAS and Interns: What We Learned

September 01, 2020 | United Way Team

Hear from our summer VISTAS and interns about their experience working with United Way this summer.

This summer, four individuals—three AmeriCorps VISTAS and one Community Building intern—joined the United Way of East Central Iowa (UWECI) team to learn more about United Way, the nonprofit world, and the role UWECI plays in the community. We sat down with three of them—Anna Kolln, Katie Andreasen, and Kyle Scheer—to recap americorps_iowa-ful_clearbackgroundtheir summers and hear what they learned over the last couple of months. Hear what they thought of their experience below!


What is one new thing you learned about UWECI?

Anna: One thing I learned about United Way during my time here was how essential they are to responding to disasters in our community. After the derecho storm, it was amazing to see the impact of United Way's work in the disaster response.

Katie: United Way is not only the glue that connects different non-profits within the community at-large, but also has its own programs, like VITA, which offers free tax return support.    

Kyle: I learned the role United Way plays in not only funding local non-profits, but also bringing those non-profits together to collaborate on shared goals.


Tell us about one project you worked on that you’re most proud of and why.

Anna: The project I am proudest of is the interactive map I created after the derecho to help community members see where in Cedar Rapids and Marion they could find resources to help recover from the storm. I liked this project because I initiated the idea myself and was able to use skills I developed over the course of my internship to address an immediate need.

Katie: I'm incredibly proud of UWECI's volunteer response to the derecho and I'm grateful for the opportunity to serve our community by answering calls for those looking to volunteer, or in need of volunteer help. Hearing that people received the help they needed or that volunteers had a positive experience, makes the chaos of disaster response worth it.  

Kyle: After the derecho hit Cedar Rapids, I was redirected to help with volunteer and need coordination. I fielded phone calls from those looking for help and looking to help. It was affirming to work with an organization that steps up in times of crisis and be able to do it in a community that has an innate value in helping their neighbor.


What is one skill you learned at UWECI that you’ll use in your everyday life?

Anna: One skill I will take away from this internship is the ability to tell a story with facts and data.

Katie: The ability to voice my opinion and ask questions. As a college student heading into my professional career soon, my position at UWECI has empowered me to believe what I have to say is important and valued.

Kyle: I learned that making fundamental process changes takes time, and that establishing a shared understanding of why process changes are necessary prior to pitching the changes themselves is a strategy for success.