AmeriCorps Spotlight- Laura Smith
Laura Smith has been a part of the International Rescue Committee (IRC) for nearly four years, first as a volunteer at the IRC in Abilene beginning in 2006 and now in Dallas through the AmeriCorps VISTA program.
“I studied International Relations in college, and the work they (International Rescue Committee in Abilene) were doing attracted me to the organization,” says Laura. “I had a great deal of respect for the IRC long before I started volunteering, and that respect only grew with exposure.”
When Laura graduated from college, she had been accepted into to the University of Virginia’s School of Law. Rather than going directly from college to law school, however, Laura chose to defer her acceptance to dedicate a year to serving her community. In July of 2009, Laura joined the staff of the IRC in Dallas as an Immigration VISTA through AmeriCorps.
As the Immigration VISTA, Laura assists in strengthening the capacity of the IRC in Dallas Immigration department by grant writing for the immigration department, responding to questions about Immigration law, filling out and turning in legal documentations on behalf of the clients, and working hand in hand with the USCIS to ensure applications for green cards, citizenship, and family reunification go as smoothly as possible. Every day is different. “There’s no such thing as a typical day at the IRC,” says Laura. “There’s never a slow day, and there is always something new or unexpected.”
To be successful at her position, Laura cites patience as the most important skill because of the language barrier between IRC staff and clients. “In any position at the IRC, patience is critical,” says Laura. She is also required to be able to adapt to rapidly changing events and to multitask while maintaining a sharp attention to detail.
Laura has come to love many aspects of her job. She has learned an incredible amount about the complexities of Immigration law and enjoys helping clients navigate the legal system. She also loves the environment of the IRC, working with the IRC in Dallas staff, and learning about the many diverse cultures represented by IRC clients. Most of all, Laura enjoys going home every day knowing that she has made a difference in the lives of the people who come to see her.
When Laura completes her year of service, she will begin law school in the fall of 2010 with an intended focus in International and Immigration law.