My name is Ayla Murrell and I am the AmeriCorps VISTA Leader for 55,000 Degrees in addition to being a VISTA focused on Peer Mentoring at Jefferson Community and Technical College. Mastering my elevator speech has been a challenge unlike any I have ever faced before. Today, I'd like to give you a glimpse into my life as a VISTA with 55k. Enjoy!
Alarm goes off. Currently I awake to the sound of Bein’ Green, Andrew Bird’s take on the classic Muppet’s song. It’s chill enough that I don’t take fright, but loud enough that I (usually) get out of bed.
I plop down in front of the TV with a bowl of Honey Nut Cheerios and a cup o’ coffee and watch a little Netflix or Hulu while I eat. Currently, I am watching Master of None. It’s hilarious and a bit odd. Aziz Ansari has really hit his stride although I'm still mourning the end of Parks and Rec; it was truly "5,000 Candles in the Wind."
AHH! Realization that mornings aren’t just for binging Netflix hits me and I start frantically getting ready. This usually includes the half-hearted curling of my hair and, since it’s now November, figuring out how many layers I can wear to work and still look business casual. Sorry, soccer socks, you're warm, but you look decidedly weird with skirts.
After grabbing a Lean Cuisine, I head out the door ready to embrace the day!
Arrive at work at good ole 2nd and Broadway, home to Jefferson Community and Technical College, and the office of the one and only Ayla Murrell. I quickly check my e-mails and respond to any pressing matters
After settling in a bit, I review my check list of ongoing projects and tasks. As the VISTA Leader for 55k and a coordinator for both Summer Coaching and the JCTC Peer Leaders, my responsibilities are a bit more spread out than they used to be. It’s become increasingly important that I really track all of the activities I am involved with and am expected to complete. I try and prioritize what I will be working on each day and then do it!
I typically work on VISTA Leader-y things each morning for a bit. Those tasks are varied and change day to day. However, I consistently check this web site and provide any pertinent updates, send reminders and provide guidance to the VISTAs as needed, explore ways to recruit new VISTAs, and spend some time brainstorming ways to make VISTA a better experience for all members involved through 55k.
I then spend some time focusing on the Peer Leaders. They are a group of near-peer mentors at JCTC that I coordinate. Being involved with and getting to know the students that serve as mentors in the program has really been a highlight of my VISTA term. All of them have unique and fascinating stories to tell both about their background, their motivation to mentor, and their own educational history. They have given so much to the students they mentor and I'm just happy I was provided the platform through VISTA to help connect them to the students they serve.
My Peer Leader devoted time usually is focused on finding ways to connect the mentors with new and future students, searching for possible volunteer opportunities for them, researching best practices for mentoring programs, reviewing data from previous semesters to identify opportunities for growth, recruiting new mentors, training new mentors, planning events for the mentors and mentees, meeting with current mentors to get feedback and provide support, and creating promotional materials to market the program. I do all of this with the idea that, if I can get as much of this done now and help establish a structure, the program will be manageable post-VISTA.
LUNCH. By this point in the day, I would eat basically anything.
While I eat my food, I spend some time reviewing and updating the social media for The 55k VISTAs, The JCTC Peer Leaders, and my own account. I mostly focus on Twitter because it’s easiest to use to interact with others, but I also check and update Facebook and Instagram periodically.
I also take advantage of this time to catch up on education related articles both locally and nationally. Twitter is great for finding articles and posts that I would never find by just visiting website after website.
I will typically spend a bit more time on the Peer Leaders, but that is really dependent on the level of work needed for that day.
I have spent a fair amount of time focused on Summer Coaching recently. Summer Coaching is a high school to college transition program that matches graduating high school seniors with a near peer from their intended college who can help support them over the summer. You should definitely check out the website I made for it using Weebly:
Since it’s still fall, my Summer Coaching time is typically spent on updating and revising the website, exploring opportunities to promote the program, and researching the best ways to enhance the program for next year. I love making the promotional materials for the program and sometimes spend some time on Canva fiddling around with different design options.
If you’re vaguely interested in designing materials for a program, but lack Photoshop or Illustrator skills, Canva is amazing.
Re-check my e-mails and respond to any that I may not have earlier in the day. Tie up any loose ends for projects I worked on that day. Review my schedule for the next day and prepare any materials or notes as needed for meetings or presentations.
I usually duck out around 5:00 ish and head to the Academy for Individual Excellence where I volunteer as an Assistant Coach for the Girls Basketball team. Go Cougars!
Cook dinner and/or stop by my parents’ house to check out what they have prepared. Unfortunately, I did not inherit my parents’ ability to cook and my creations often resemble failed science experiments. I once prepared a meal consisting of spaghetti, marinara sauce, chicken nuggets, and cheese slices. I thought it was delicious. The friend whose 21st birthday I prepared it for was not as impressed; she graciously just explained she had already eaten…along with the rest of our friends present. More for me!
Usually spent reading, searching for grad schools, pretending the dishes in the sink will magically wash themselves, or hanging out with friends.
Bed time! I am totally, completely dependent on my Kindle to help me fall asleep. It’s my everything. I turn out the lights, get in bed, and read something lighthearted as I drift off which takes approximately 5 seconds. I think I have conditioned myself to fall asleep upon picking up a book after years of reading during bedtime. I cannot stay awake while reading which is sad since I love to read. During undergraduate, I had to sit straight up at a desk with a cup of coffee to stay awake while reading. It’s a problem.
So there ya go! If you feel so inclined, you can follow me on Twitter @aylamurrell to stay updated on all the other happenings in my clearly fascinating life. While you're at it, you can and should also follow @The55kVISTAs!