VISTA stands for Volunteers in Service to America and its 50-year-old program that is part of the overall umbrella organization, AmeriCorps. The main mission of VISTA is to alleviate poverty. VISTAs do this through indirect service, which is a little different than other national service programs – VISTAs take on more “behind-the-scenes” work, such as developing resources, program evaluation and partnership building. The two focus areas for VISTAs are capacity building and sustainability.
VISTA operates similarly to a full-time, entry-level job. The main difference is how you are compensated for your time. As a VISTA, you are a full-time, federal volunteer serving a 1-year service term. During that time, you receive a living stipend set at the poverty level for the community in which you serve. VISTA believes it is beneficial for members to live in poverty, in order to holistically understand the mission of “alleviating poverty”. You can hold additional employment during your term of service; it just cannot interfere with your full-time commitment to VISTA or be a conflict of interest to the organization in which you serve.
There are many rewards for committing yourself to a year of service! Each of our AmeriCorps VISTA projects will engage you in meaningful work, expand your social network, and provide professional development opportunities in order to prepare you for your next steps in life - whether that is pursuing a career or furthering your education.
As an AmeriCorps VISTA member, you are eligible to receive a number of benefits including:
In addition, many colleges and universities understand the value of national service and are part of the AmeriCorps Matching Program, offering benefits such as service scholarships that match all or part of the Segal AmeriCorps Education award. A list of participating institutions can be found here.
Our Afterschool and Summer Meals VISTAs know the importance of healthy meals to a child’s health, education, and wellbeing. Our VISTA members help develop systems that connect afterschool and summer learning programs to the Afterschool Meals and Summer Food Service programs offered through the U.S. Department of Agriculture. An example project our VISTA members have worked on is creating partnerships with local organizations to promote sites that serve free meals to students during winter break.
Young Men of Color Mentoring VISTAs develop programs that make high-quality educational, enrichment, and mentoring experiences more accessible to young men of color. Our VISTA members establish the strong community partnerships needed to make these opportunities come to fruition! As part of our programs, a past VISTA member established a local Barbershop Books program that provides local barbershops with culturally relevant, age-appropriate books for young boys of color to help increase literacy rates in his community.
Afterschool Sustainability VISTA members help build a strong statewide network to increase awareness of and support for afterschool and summer learning programs. Our VISTA members help establish community outreach and engagement strategies that communicate the importance of afterschool programs. As part of our programs, a former VISTA member helped create the state’s first Afterschool Champions program designed to recognize powerful community leaders in their support of afterschool programming.
STEM Afterschool Expansion VISTAs create exciting and engaging opportunities for youth to explore diverse topics in science, technology, engineering, and math. The focus of these positions is to help increase access to high-quality afterschool programs focusing on STEM! A past STEM Afterschool Expansion VISTA helped coordinate trainings for afterschool program leaders to learn how to use the California Academy of Sciences’ Science Action Club curriculum that emphasizes environmental stewardship.
STEM Ecosystem VISTAs work within STEM Learning Ecosystems to focus on building capacity to increase access to STEM education through informal education channels. Our VISTA members facilitate collaboration between STEM-rich institutions (whether it be a school, library, or museum) to create STEM opportunities both inside and outside of the classroom! A current VISTA initiative for this project supports schools in implementing their own Chief Science Officers program, which allows students to become leaders in launching new opportunities in STEM and innovation.
"I became an AmeriCorps VISTA for the Alaska Afterschool Network to help build capacity for engaging girls and minorities in STEM, and to help make a difference in children's lives."
-Lily Tegner, Afterschool STEM Expansion