What is AmeriCorp VISTA?
AmeriCorps VISTA (Volunteers In Service To America) is an anti-poverty program created by the federal government in 1964. The first class of VISTAs began serving in 1965. In 1993, VISTA became part of AmeriCorps, a network of national and community service programs that annually engage more than 75,000 members in intensive service to meet critical needs in disaster services, economic opportunity, education, environmental stewardship, healthy futures, and veterans and military families. AmeriCorps is administered by the Corporation for National and Community Service, the federal agency that improves lives, strengthens communities, and fosters civic engagement through service and volunteering.
The United Way of the Ocoee Region began serving as a VISTA Cohort sponsor in 2013. The United Way saw the opportunity to provide non profit organizations with a valuable asset to increase their capacity and assist in alleviating poverty in our community. The first seven (7) VISTA cohort members were placed with the United Way, Impact Cleveland, The Refuge, Signal Center, Family Promise, Tri-State Taking the Lead Program, and the Hope Center, Child Advocacy Center.
As a result of the success of the program, the United Way will sponsor 16 Vista Members for the 2018-19 year. This is an incredible opportunity for the Ocoee Region.
AmeriCorps VISTA taps the skills, talents, and passion of more than 8,000 Americans annually to support community efforts to overcome poverty. The program's nationwide corps of VISTAs commits full-time for a year at nonprofit organizations or local government agencies to build the capacity of these organizations to carry out programs that tackle poverty. VISTAs recruit and manage community volunteers, raise funds, and help manage projects. VISTAs support programs that improve literacy, expand job opportunities, develop financial assets, reduce homelessness, and improve health services. They also support programs that increase housing opportunities, increase economic opportunities for low-income veterans and military families, and expand access to technology for those living in rural and urban areas of poverty across America.
Core Principles of VISTA
AmeriCorpsVISTA supports community efforts to overcome poverty. Any nonprofit organization, educational institution, or tribal or public agency with a project explicitly designed to alleviate povertymay sponsor a VISTA.
AmeriCorps VISTA values the inherent strengths and resources of the community. VISTA expects project sponsors to involve residents of the community in planning, developing, and implementing the VISTA project. This approach allows low-income individuals the freedom to speak for themselves in determining the projects that suit their specific needs.
AmeriCorps VISTA expands the ability of sponsor organizations to fight poverty. VISTAs strengthen and support organizations by building infrastructure, expanding community partnerships, securing long-term resources, coordinating training for participants, and much more. These capacity-building activities enable organizations to provide better services to low-income individuals and communities.
VISTAs serve as a short-term resource to help sponsor organizations achieve lasting solutions to poverty.
So, what does this actually look like and who can apply?
AmeriCorps VISTA is open to U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents age 18 and older. VISTAs choose from projects throughout the country, based on their skills and interests, and serve full time for one year with community-based organizations. During their service, VISTAs receive a living allowance, as well as health care, child care, training, relocation expenses, and liability insurance. After a successful year of service, VISTAs receive either a $1,800 stipend or a Segal AmeriCorps Education Award equal to the maximum amount of the federal Pell Grant. The award can be used to pay for educational expenses at qualified institutions of higher education, or to pay back qualified student loans; for VISTA service approved in fiscal year 2018-19, the education award is $6,095.
For more information about the United Way's VISTA Cohort, contact Cindy Lawson, email@example.com or 423-479-2020.