• Mon. Jul 22nd, 2024

My Voice: Being an AmeriCorps VISTA

My name’s Rachel and I’m an AmeriCorps VISTA. I’d be willing to bet you don’t know what that is. AmeriCorps is my job but it is also much more than that. It means I’ve dedicated over a year of my life to national service by helping improve the lives of vulnerable people in my community. 

AmeriCorps is a federal program, overseen by the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS). AmeriCorps is often considered the domestic version of the Peace Corps. There are four main ways to serve as an AmeriCorps member. 

State and National members can do things like serve in schools to improve education, serve in a conservation corps to protect the environment, or connect veterans to healthcare and other services.

AmeriCorps VISTA stands for Volunteers in Service to America. VISTA members serve at nonprofit organizations that combat poverty, doing things like fundraising, grant writing, and volunteer recruitment. 

(Source: YouTube/AmeriCorps)

AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps (NCCC) has two different programs. Serve 10-11 months in the Traditional Corps with local and national nonprofits to complete hands-on projects. NCCC teams serve on at least 4 projects in different cities and states through the U.S. 

AmeriCorps NCCC’s other program is the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Corps. Members are deployed wherever the need is greatest in cities that have been affected by natural disasters and are trained in things like disaster survival assistance and planning/geographic systems. 

There are also three AmeriCorps programs specifically for seniors: the Senior Foster Grandparent Program, Seniors RSVP, the Senior Companion Program. 

I’m an AmeriCorps VISTA, currently in my second year of national service. Technically I’m a volunteer but I do receive a modest stipend. I discovered AmeriCorps one day when I was in college at Wright State and happened to stumble upon a small job fair. I was a senior and had absolutely no idea what I was going to do next year, so I walked up to the AmeriCorps table.

A recruiter who was only a few years older than me gave me some information about how I could work for a nonprofit that fights poverty; something I was extremely interested in pursuing as a carer.

A couple months later I ended up interviewing at the organization where she was serving to take over her position once her service year ended. I didn’t only get a job out of this happenstance interaction–she is now one of my best friends and my roommate. 

I’ll be honest, being a VISTA isn’t always easy. During my first year of service, I felt like I had no idea what I was doing a lot of the time, and the last half of my year was completely derailed by the COVID-19 Pandemic.

VISTA’s make poverty wages and living on so money is tight. When my first year was over, I had trouble finding more traditional employment. The job market was bad and I felt like I hadn’t made the most of my VISTA year. After a few months, I started applying for more AmeriCorps opportunities. I’m happy to say I began my second year of service in January. I’m doing work I really enjoy and I finally feel like I’m on a path towards a career I love. 

Check out AmeriCorps opportunities here

Rachel Rosen