By Ashley Zago, Contributing Writer
West Liberty University students now have the opportunity to benefit personally by serving in local and neighboring communities through the National Organization of AmeriCorps VISTA.
AmeriCorps VISTA is a national community service program designed to bring volunteers to organizations for the purpose of creating and expanding capacity building programs to benefit low-income communities.
Volunteers in Service to America (VISTA) have been helping in the fight against poverty for nearly 46 years. Based on the vision of President John F. Kennedy, VISTA was founded as a domestic version of the Peace Corps and was incorporated into the AmeriCorps network in 1993.
As of 2010, undergraduate and graduate students can become full-time AmeriCorps VISTA members. Doddridge County Family Resource Network leader for AmeriCorps, Kevin Means, said, “AmeriCorps decided it was unfair to not allow a VISTA (member) to take classes during their service period and began taking steps to change the policy.” Means believes this decision will not only benefit the future VISTA members, but also the community organizations in which VISTA volunteers. Means went on to say, “College students have an advantage over others because they are in a constant state of learning and can offer their new knowledge and special skills to help fight poverty in their communities.”
West Liberty University students serving as full-time AmeriCorps VISTA members are eligible to receive a modest living allowance, healthcare benefits, and childcare assistance. After completing a
year of service, AmeriCorps VISTA will also hold a one-year noncompetitive status for a federal government job and will offer the choice to receive either a Segal AmeriCorps Education Award of $5,350.00 or a $1,500 post-service stipend.
Over 170,000 Americans have served as VISTA volunteers since 1965, and the AmeriCorps Network is thrilled to have college students increase the number. AmeriCorps stands firm in the belief that through serving, one can make a big difference, not only in the lives of others, but also in his/her own life.
College student and former AmeriCorps VISTA Summer Associate Jake Cooper said, “This experience gives an amazing first hand glance into real life problems and solutions. It allows you to be actively involved in helping your community on a daily basis.”
The AmeriCorps Network is interested in obtaining new members and continually accepts applications.
Those interested in obtaining more information on AmeriCorps or in applying for VISTA service can visit www.americorps.gov or call toll-free at 1-800-942-2677. Questions can also be submitted to the AmeriCorps Network at firstname.lastname@example.org.