The Conservancy’s fortune in having a highly qualified, committed AmeriCorps Volunteer Infrastructure Project (VIP) Fellow serve in support of our volunteer program continued for a second year with Allie Neri. The AmeriCorps VIP Fellow position is made possible thanks to a partnership with Jewish Family Service of San Diego and the generosity of private donations. With the completion of her 11-month tenure last week, we asked Allie to reflect on her work helping to develop and grow our volunteer initiatives, which she ably pursued even through these unprecedented times.

How did you become an AmeriCorps VIP Fellow with the Balboa Park Conservancy? What drew you to the park?

I learned about the position from [last year’s AmeriCorps VIP Fellow] Audrey Tamayo when we were working together as teachers at the YMCA. I had moved here from Florida, and one of the first places I visited was Balboa Park. The park has been a staple for me, from my time as a student at SDSU to now as a young professional. I used to spend tons of time studying in and appreciating the park, and even volunteered at the San Diego Natural History Museum when I was a student. The park has always been there for me, so being presented the opportunity to work here was an obvious choice.

What experience or moment will you likely remember most when you reflect on your time as an AmeriCorps VIP Fellow for the Conservancy?

I will most likely remember the people and the direct work we did to care for the park. Starting the maintenance work parties and planting trees were easily the most rewarding experiences on top of helping support the food truck events.

What were your greatest challenges during your time as an AmeriCorps VIP Fellow?

Juggling! Being an AmeriCorps fellow, I had the opportunity to help out with other programs and projects. I had a lot of fun with it because I love organizing and time-management exercises.

What of your accomplishments as an AmeriCorps VIP Fellow are you most proud of or you feel will have the most lasting impact?

Creating the initial framework and doing the research for the Garden Stewards program. I think once this program gets off the ground, it will make a huge impact on the park.

What advice would you give to your successor AmeriCorps VIP Fellow?

Organize everything!!! Literally everything! Being able to recall information and find it quickly is so important. Remember to take breaks and ask for help when you need it.

Any final thoughts or anything you’d like to add about your time as an AmeriCorps VIP Fellow?

I just want to say thank you to my amazing friends and colleagues—I couldn’t have done it without you.