Spring 2003

In Seattle with the Rainier Vista VISTA
by Mary Grybeck

My VISTA position is serving as Technology Coordinator at the Rainier Vista Housing Development, which is only a few miles south of downtown Seattle in Rainier Valley. Yes, I am nowthe Rainier Vista VISTA.

Rainier Vista as a community is in a state of transition; a recent recipient of a huge HOPE VI redevelopment grant, the community is now on the first phase of a project to rebuild all the housing in the community. The old housing was built in the early 1940 for defense workers, and is coming to the end of its useful lifespan. While at one time about 400 families lived in the community, there are currently 250-300 families living on-site, while the other 100+ families have relocated off-site for the duration of the rebuilding process. Our community includes Native Americans as well as many cultures from Africa and Asia - Vietnamese, Laotian, Cambodian, Somali, Ethiopian, Oromo, Eritrean, etc.

The computer labproperlyreferred to as the "Rainier Vista Job Resource and Technology Center." Its primary function has been to provide opportunities and toolsfor adults to find jobs and to improve their computer skills to find better jobs. In past, my predecessor (and current supervisor) also acted as a job coach—providing case management servicesin addition to technology assistance.While I don't offer the same case management services,Ihelpvisitorslearn to use our resume and cover letter templates and navigate online job search sites. In addition, I'm writing some grants to keep us "in business," working to upgrade our systems, and developing partnerships with other organizations to broaden our services. Currently, in partnership with the Literacy Council of Seattle, we are starting Beginning and Intermediate ESL programs that will utilize computer resources to help people learn English. In addition,the Refugee Women's Alliance is holding FamilyLiteracy classeswith a technology component, and I am working to get a G.E.D. program started with Project Farewell.

We do allow kids to use the computers, but to a limited extent. Kids are expected to use the center to do homework or learn skills—not always an easy expectation to enforce! Games aren't allowed, and chat room usage is very limited. We have a fabulous typing program, Typing Quick and Easy, which kids are expected to practice for the first 15 minutes they are here. Just yesterday, I was being interviewed by Michele, a reporter for the Voice, the newspaper for all the public housing communities here in Seattle. She mentioned that at another housing development, Yesler, there was a great deal of difficultly in getting adults into their computer lab, because it was overrun with kids. I'm very thankful that my supervisor, Rhonda, has worked so hard to focus on making the lab a place for adults. There are any number of children's programs for the kids in the community—an after-school art program, the Boys and Girls Club, a garden program, after-school tutoring, sports—however the JRC is really the only place adults can go in the community to get out of the house. I am working to develop one children-oriented program for the lab, however.The after-school art program may be coming into the lab once a week or fortnight to learn web design or do other focused art projects on the computer.

That's all for the moment... Greetings from Seattle!

Mary Grybeck is an Americorps*VISTA member for the CTC VISTA Project. She is working with Rainier Vista Housing Development's Job Resource and Technology Center.

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