Lorenzo Sibilia ’20 was looking for a job after graduation that would combine his interests (and double major) in political science and sociology. He also wanted to hang on to an ideal apartment in downtown Albany. 

He interviewed at research outfits, law firms and other places, but nothing really sparked his interest like the experience he could have as an AmeriCorps VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America).

Sibilia applied through Siena’s Center for Academic Community Engagement (ACE) and was accepted for a one-year posting to the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Capital Area. 

“I found it was the perfect fit for me. I’ve always been very cognizant of different people from different walks of life – that’s the sociology major in me speaking. I didn’t come from money or privilege, but I always had everything I needed. Others weren’t so lucky. My upbringing, my education – it all pointed to doing the work I’m doing now.”

He said the Boys & Girls Clubs are “an amazing community space” that help young people become proud members of their communities. They offer afterschool programs, tutoring, skills development and more. The Utica native works at the Clubs’ offices in Albany and Troy as a volunteer and employment recruitment coordinator, and also stops in at local schools and club locations to do outreach. He pitched in with the organization’s mobile meal initiative that was launched when the pandemic shut down local schools earlier this year. 

He explained that his motivation to do community outreach has its foundation in his Siena experience, and was also sparked by the tragic death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri in 2014, echoed recently with the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis. He shares this personal story: 

“I detest police brutality, but I am also made sick by the looting and violence committed under the guise of protest. Protest is how change occurs, whereas rioting shows that people don’t deserve what they are fighting for. To make change, you need to educate yourself. As a legislative intern in college, I was able to use my education to be an effective agent of change. Why wouldn’t you want to help educate kids so they can make change as well? It’s why I went to college in the first place.”

Sibilia said kids today can get overwhelmed with the negative stories and images on 24/7 news channels and social media. An organization like the Boys & Girls Clubs can help counteract the disturbing and disheartening messages.

“Places like these tell kids ‘You matter.’ They show them their community cares about them and is willing to give them the skills to make their lives better. If you positively impact one child, you can change the world.”

Any Siena student is welcome to apply for the competitive AmeriCorps VISTA program, which fits perfectly with the College’s mission to create “a new generation of leaders eager to create a more just, peaceful and humane world. Siena is one of a handful of colleges nationwide to host post-graduate VISTAs each academic year, who support community efforts to fight against poverty. 

Siena College AmeriCorps VISTA Fellows make a year-long, full-time commitment to serve on a specific project at a Capital Region nonprofit organization, public agency, or educational institution. They focus their efforts to build the organizational, administrative, and financial capacity of organizations that fight illiteracy, improve health services, foster economic development, and assist low-income communities.

If Sibilia’s experience sounds like something you’d like to pursue, check out the AmeriCorps VISTA program through Siena’s ACE Center.

“The Siena AmeriCorps VISTA program is an opportunity to spend a year serving at a nonprofit organization, to build organizational capacity, and sustainable programming—but it is so much more,” said ACE Director Allison Schultz. “The VISTA year is transformational. Through our developmental cohort-based model, Siena VISTA Fellows and the ACE VISTA leadership team support each other through challenging times, build lifelong professional skills, explore their interests experientially, reflect intentionally on complex community issues, and think innovatively about how to address the challenges facing the community. Siena VISTAs complete their service year with a new perspective and direction—poised to take their next steps with confidence and clarity of purpose.”