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A word from our 2022 Vista

The northern Michigan community is one with which I’ve long felt connected. Although I spent much of my life in Atlanta, Georgia, my family has long-standing Michigan roots. As a result, I have spent most of my summers Up North.

Last summer, following my first year at college, I decided I needed a commuter bike to ease the walk to class. My idea was to buy a cheap vintage road bike and rebuild it myself. I wanted to gain some working mechanical knowledge of bicycles while finding a bike right for me. After scouring online listings, I settled on a perfect candidate — a vintage Peugeot road bike for sale at the Norte Wheelhouse. I first learned about Norte when I visited the Wheelhouse to pick it up.

Over the next year, as I looked for an internship that would satisfy my interest in business operations, I thought again about Norte. After contacting Executive Director Jill Sill, I learned about the VISTA position — a role administered by AmeriCorps. VISTAs serve as volunteers for nonprofits throughout the country. The position with Norte seemed to provide not only an opportunity to grow my understanding of business but also the ability to contribute to northern Michigan. So far this summer, it’s been a great fit.

I’m halfway through my VISTA service here at Norte, and my experience has been terrific. My role within the Norte organization is very fluid. I help wherever help is needed. This flexible structure has led to many new and valuable experiences, from picking up deliveries to providing hands-on support for programs like Bikes For All. This past week, I even rolled as a summer camp bike coach.

Being immersed in Norte’s work, I have learned firsthand how businesses run — this was one of my first goals as a VISTA. I’ve also earned a strong admiration for the genuine community impact that Norte provides and how it achieves it. Each week the new responsibilities I’m given provide insight into how a small nonprofit business operates. The experiences also provide opportunities to learn and grow as a person.

When I look back on this summer, I’ll see the excitement on the faces of the older riders in Bikes For All. I’ll hear the laughs and chatter of children in Summer Bike Camp. These smiles and giggles are tangible proof of the positive impact of Norte’s work — we see it daily. Each member of Team Orange models the mission of moving and connecting people to the community. An authentic commitment to a common goal and a collaborative culture has welcomed me with open arms.

From the first introduction to buying a used Peugeot to the ongoing service as a VISTA, my involvement with Norte has been everything I’d hoped. I couldn’t imagine a better place to serve as a VISTA. I look forward to seeing the organization grow. Norte will continue to expand its positive impact within northern Michigan — a place I’ll consider home no matter where I live.

~ Nate Eshleman, AmeriCorps VISTA with Norte, 2022


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