Our People, Their Stories: Caroline Barnes, IndyEast Promise Zone VISTA

Caroline is the Education & Workforce Development Coordinator VISTA for the IndyEast Promise Zone. She is a long-time Irvington neighborhood resident and has a deep love for the diverse population of Indianapolis. For Caroline, it was an easy decision to accept the opportunity to serve in the Promise Zone. She says, “There were a lot of good reasons to serve my AmeriCorps term in the Promise Zone. But mostly, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to serve the community where I live and to do something that would be bettering myself.”

As the Education & Workforce Development Coordinator, Caroline works as a liaison between the Eastside’s residents, organizations, schools, and the Promise Zone to promote education and workforce initiatives. She spends much of her time working with the staff and families at The Union Apartments, an affordable housing site within the Promise Zone created for families and their students enrolled at Thomas Gregg Neighborhood Schools. She is currently working with staff at the Union to help procure and compile welcome kits for families that are new to the Union. The kits contain cleaning supplies and other basic necessities. According to Caroline, “…providing these supplies is a way to show the families at the Union that they are loved and cared for. Having the supplies to get started is just one less thing a family who might be struggling has to worry about.”

Caroline finds working with the people in the Promise Zone to be the most enjoyable part of her service year. She is grateful to be part of a cohort with so many lovely and like-minded people. “Having the support from my cohort has made all the difference for me. I’m constantly surrounded by people who are willing to share and teach. The community is filled with people who are always willing to help and want to see me succeed. It can be challenging sometimes to have so much desire to help but not know where and how I can use my strengths to help. But having so many people around me who care has helped me find where I belong.”

After her service year ends in June, Caroline plans to continue her education to receive her master’s in Clinical Mental Health Counseling at Indiana Wesleyan University to become a Mental Health Counselor. Her time in the Promise Zone has prepared her by allowing her to create relationships with people from all walks of life and by networking with people in and outside of the mental health field. “My time in the Promise Zone has boosted my confidence and given me the courage to step outside the box. I will come out of my service year being more experienced and prepared for whatever my future offers.”

Caroline’s journey exemplifies the power of community service and the potential for personal and professional growth from engaging with and supporting those in need. As she finishes the last 5 months of her service year and moves forward in her educational and career pursuits, she will continue to be a beacon of compassion and dedication in her community.