Graham Hughes: Compassionate & Authentic

 Graham at Machu Picchu in Peru.

Graham Hughes graduated from Hobart and William Smith Colleges   in May 2016 with a B.A. in Public Policy.  This year he is serving as a Rochester Youth Year/AmeriCorps VISTA at the Rochester-Monroe Anti-Poverty Initiative (RMAPI) at the United Way of Greater Rochester. His project focuses on assisting RMAPI make large-scale structural changes in supporting community building, addressing structural racism, and addressing trauma as means to reduce poverty in the Rochester and Monroe County area.

What attracted you to Rochester Youth Year?

I was attracted to Rochester Youth Year because of the opportunity to serve as an AmeriCorps VISTA, the wonderful host sites that the program partners with, and the chance to do this work alongside over a dozen of like-minded people who have already become great friends to me.

How would you describe yourself?

I would describe myself as someone who loves and cares deeply about other people, both people I know closely and people I do not. It might sound a bit cheesy, but the thing I want to do most in life is make the world a better place for others. It’s the main reason I am spending this year of service with Rochester Youth Year. I also find that I am happiest around people I love. People I can be my genuine with who love me for exactly that. Above all else, it is other people who bring my life the most joy, happiness, and meaning.

Why or how do you find meaning in service? 

I find meaning in service because of the people I serve. As VISTA members we do indirect service, which is a step removed from the people our service intends to do good by. Being a step removed, it can be difficult to see the effects of the work we are trying to do, and to make the personal connection that so often draws people to service work. In all honesty, it’s difficult at times to deal with this, to be so removed from the results of my actions and service. I don’t get to see smiling children or completed homes, instead I get to see a computer screen. However, I know every day that I go to work at the Rochester Monroe Anti-Poverty Initiative, trying to build organizational capacity and sustainability, I am helping others. I know that the work we do is trying to make this community a better place for all the people that live in it. Having that knowledge in the back of my mind makes every second I spend serving at RMAPI worth it, even if I never get to see the results.

How does RYY fit into your professional goals?

RYY fits into my professional goals in several ways. When it comes to a career, I have lots of ideas but no concrete plan yet. This time with RYY is a wonderful opportunity to explore a potential path in the Nonprofit world without committing myself to a career I don’t want to pursue. I have been able to experience firsthand what working for a Nonprofit and with nonprofit professionals is like. This has already proven to be a fantastic learning experience as I have never had the pleasure to work in this world before. In addition to those in the nonprofit world, I have also been exposed to government officials, corporate and business leaders, and to a number of people from community organizations. Being exposed to the knowledge and experiences of these people from such different backgrounds is an incredible opportunity to for me to learn. No matter where I go in life professionally, I know that this experience as an AmeriCorps VISTA will stay with me and benefit me forever.

What’s one fact that some people don’t know about you?

One thing some people don’t know about me is that I write (terrible) poetry sometimes. I started doing it in college and have continued since. I write it for fun, but also to help me deal with the struggles and problems of life!

If you could be any animal, what would you be?

If I could be any animal I would probably be a dolphin. They get to swim around the ocean all day, fishing with their friends and jumping around. They have to watch out for sharks and killer whales, sure, but who doesn’t already do that?


Graham, thanks so much for you passion and dedication to anti-poverty work! We know that you’re going to do great things this year and beyond!

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