Mental Health Warrior: AmeriCorps VISTA

Jill Pritts

Coming into work at Family Service of Roanoke Valley could be considered Jill Pritts’ day job. In the wee hours of the morning, before many of us have begun to steer, she can be found teaching English to children in China.

Jill is well versed in five languages but has her Bachelor of Arts degree in Spanish and international studies with a minor in health promotion, education, and behavior from the University of South Carolina.

As a participant in the AmeriCorps VISTA national service program, Jill is working under a sponsorship with Family Service. Her primary goal while here is to develop resources aimed at improving outcomes related to substance use and mental health in Roanoke Valley.

Jill is taking on the role as an agency liaison with community partners. She plans to work with the Hope Initiative, Roanoke Valley Collective Response to the Opioid and Addiction Crisis, and other partners. She will be developing an Outreach Plan for mental health services, as well as helping to track current substance use programs and offerings within the area. She is helping to identify gaps within coverage and create strategies to better serve clients.

“Ultimately, my goal is to track the experience of someone seeking substance use and/or mental health services within the area in order to identify ways that Family Service and other community partners can adapt to better address the community’s needs.”

Jill identifies her work with Family Service as a continuation of exploring her interest using community health networks to identify potential solutions to existing gaps within services offered.

As an undergraduate student Jill knew she wanted to work with community health needs and ways to work towards developing community-led solutions. Following graduation Jill moved to Columbia to begin working with non-profit organizations with a focus on youth development, community health, and community economic development. She is looking forward to continuing exploring these interests during her time with Family Service.

Jill’s favorite quote comes from Maya Angelou:

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

Leo Priddy

Leo Priddy is pretty savvy. With a Bachelor of Arts in Communication Studies from Virginia Tech, Leo came into his role as a communications specialist ready to help Family Service grow.

He credits his senior capstone course, Digital Advocacy Campaigns, as a major influence unto why he has selected this particular line of work.

Much like Jill Pritts, Leo is also working with Family Service as a participant in the AmeriCorps VISTA national service program. More specifically Leo will be working in marketing and development. His primary goal is to continue developing a centralized identity for Family Service and work on embedding this identity into our internal and external communications.

Leo also plans on contributing to the website, social media, print and public relations marketing efforts. Our VISTA duo, Jill and Leo, are working together to develop the comprehensive Outreach Plan, which will combine referral and network mapping with communications strategies to enhance and strengthen the provision of mental health and substance use services in the Valley.

Having lived in Roanoke most of his life, Leo has always been drawn to working with nonprofit organizations. He is looking forward to working in capacity building; where as his previous experience has been public-facing and service-oriented.

“When it comes to Family Service, I believe my drive and experience has prepared me to truly do great things for this organization.”

One of Leo’s favorite aspects of his job is being able to approach his tasks holistically. He enjoys being able to see how all the pieces come together to work as a whole. Leo’s go-to question to ask himself when approaching his work is “how can I best contribute?”.

Leo’s favorite quote comes from Simon Sinek’s book Start With Why:

“The role of a leader is not to come up with all the great ideas. The role of a leader is to create an environment in which great ideas can happen.”