AmeriCorps VISTA members contribute indirect, capacity-building services throughout their year of service to create, expand, and/or sustain a project. Capacity-building activities enhance the mission and strategy, as well as the systems and infrastructure of an organization. They are indirect services that enable organizations to provide more, better, and sustained direct services that address community needs.
For example, a VISTA member would NOT:
- Tutor students or lead educational activities
- Manage social services caseloads
- Care for a community garden
A VISTA member WOULD:
- Recruit, train, and manage volunteers to do the activities listed above
- Partner with other community organizations to provide additional services and resources
- Write grants or fundraise to provide the materials neessary to do the activities listed above
- REsearch and develop culturally-relevant curricula
- Coordinate community events to establish a supportive school climate
- Create a database to track services and users
- Assess the effectiveness of the program
VISTA service is often considered a 24/7 priority. As such, VISTA members are expected to be available during evening and weekend hours as needed. Work hours are contingent on project needs and will vary across host organizations.
That said, VISTA members serve approximately 35-40 hours/week. Any service contributed beyond those hours should quality the member for flex time off at another time.
VISTA members commit to a 365 day term of service.
ELIGIBILITY AND SELECTION
There are only two requirements to serve with Rochester Youth Year:
- An ability to commit one year of full-time service to a youth-serving or anti-poverty-focused agency after graduation
- United States citizen, national, or legal permanent resident
That being said, we look for members that exhibit a strong commitment to social and economic equity, service, civic engagement, leadership, and diversity. Our members have strong communication skills and high emotional intelligence. They think critically and take the initiative to combat community-identified challenges or move large-scale projects forward. Most importantly, they articulate and exemplify true community partnership.
Our members come from all majors. Rochester Youth Year gives priority to applicants graduating from one of the Rochester Regional Network colleges, but is happy to receive applications from students graduating from elsewhere.
Although all applications will be reviewed with equal consideration, we encourage interested candidates to submit their applications well in advance of the final application deadline (Friday, March 10, 2017), as we will accept applications on a rolling basis.
Our application and match process occurs in four steps:
This application is submitted online and requires the following attachments:
- One-page resume highlighting your relevant experiences and skills
- One official academic transcript from each institution you have attended, mailed directly from your undergraduate institution(s)
- Two letters of recommendation
- A one-page cover letter describing your interest in Rochester Youth Year, how RYY fits into your future plans, and addressing the following questions: What local, national, or global challenge most concerns you? What action have you taken to address that concern?
After reviewing your initial application, selected candidates will be invited to interview with Rochester Youth Year staff and members. Interviews will be scheduled on a rolling basis as initial applications are received and reviewed.
My AmeriCorps Portal
Selected candidates will be asked to submit a separate application, similar to the initial one, through the My AmeriCorps portal. This allows AmeriCorps VISTA to review your application, enroll you into pre-service orientation, and systematically connect your information to our project information.
Acceptance as a Rochester Youth Year AmeriCorps VISTA member is contingent on federal approval of this AmeriCorps VISTA application.
In April, final candidates are invited to our Match Day event, where candidates and all selected projects have the opportunity to participate in short interviews with each other. Both candidates and projects compile feedback on these interviews, which RYY staff then use to make the most mutually-beneficial match.
A candidate’s attendance at Match Day is considered a firm commitment to complete a year of service with Rochester Youth Year. Please communicate any hesitations or concerns prior to this date.
Before and throughout service, members benefit from:
- Reimbursement for relocation travel expenses, if eligible, and any other project-related travel
- Relocation allowance ofup to $500, if eligible
- A modest bi-weekly living allowance
- Student loan forbearance or deferment of qualified loans
- Healthcare allowance up to $7,150
- 10 personal days and 10 sick days
- Frequent professional development opportunities
- Childcare allowance of up to $400 per month, if eligible
- Life insurance (can waive)
After completing a year of service, members receive these additional benefits:
- Either a $5,775 education award (to be applied to federal student loans or future education expenses up to 7 years) OR a $1,500 end-of-service stipend
- Repayment of interest accrued on qualified student loans
- Non-competitive eligibility for most federal jobs after term of service
- Continued support from a broad alumni network, including virtual graduate school and career fairs, webinars, and meet-ups
All AmeriCorps VISTA members are required to participate in a mandatory pre-service orientation (PSO) immediately prior to or on their first day of service. All expenses are funded by CNCS.
Following PSO, RYY program staff will provide incoming members with a two-day orientation to the City of Rochester and the program, where we address the common challenges of community building and review different models for community organizing. An on-site orientation will be provided by the supervisor at each host organization.
Throughout the year, training will be provided on a monthly basis. We offer some of these opportunities — like our multi-day fall retreat, Life After VISTA, and business etiquette luncheon — every year. Our remaining workshops, however, are determined by the needs and interests expressed by serving members. So, if your project requires grant writing or program assessment, have no fear! We’ll make sure you’re prepared.
AmeriCorps VISTA members have access to a wide database of resources, webinars, and workshops through the VISTA Campus, as well, including several semester-long e-courses members can take for college credit!
The AmeriCorps Education Award is a huge benefit to VISTA members and can be used to pay education costs at qualified institutions of higher education, for educational training, or to repay qualified student loans (i.e. federally-backed student loans in your name). You can access the award in full or in part, and you have up to seven years after your term of service has ended to claim the award. The awards are not paid directly to you, but rather to the educational institution or lender you designate.
If you won’t be using the award for the above educational purposes, you may instead claim an end-of-service stipend of $1,500. This $1,500 end-of-service stipend is paid directly to you and can be used however you best see fit.
Both the education award and the stipend are taxable.
It isn’t easy, but it is 100% doable. VISTAs are great budgeters and very crafty in making ends meet. Some choose to apply for government assistance (primarily food stamps); others choose to take on additional outside employment. The Rochester Youth Year VISTA Leader, in particular, has numerous resources to share on affordable neighborhoods, budget-friendly meals, credit counseling, accessible health resources, free social events, and more.
All VISTAs commit to their year of service for the experience, not the paycheck. That being said, VISTA strives to limit any student loan-related barriers during service by offering interest-free forbearance and deferment. Rochester Youth Year is constantly exploring new benefits to offer members, so please keep in mind that the list above may not include everything we will be able to offer.
If you are selected to participate, but have hesitations due to the living allowance, please contact our staff so that we can help you navigate your options.
Due to its nature as a federally-sponsored program, AmeriCorps VISTA members must not:
- Be involved with political advocacy, religious instruction or proselytizing, voter registration, union organizing, or lobbying while serving or identifying themselves as an AmeriCorps VISTA member
- Displace the work, or what should be the work, of paid employees of the host organizations, particularly tasks typically reserved for administrative and/or clerical positions. AmeriCorps VISTA members are to engage in project-based work.
- Engage in direct service.
- Receive any monetary contribution from their host organization to supplement the living stipend
- Enroll in credit-bearing courses or outside employment without approval from RYY program staff or CNCS. (Members are welcome to do so, we just need to be informed.)
Members are expected to:
- Communicate with staff on a regular basis in order to identify potential challenges, express ongoing concerns, raise questions, or celebrate accomplishments.
- Participate in monthly meetings, trainings, days of service, and program events
- Compile and submit reports in a complete, accurate, and timely manner
- Adhere to policy and procedure, including appropriate dress, punctuality, and not participating in prohibited activities. VISTA service should be top priority.
- Adhere to policy and expectations of the host site
RYY program staff work with supervisors and members throughout the year to ensure that goals are being met and member service is both effective and appropriate.
Rochester Youth Year manages the overarching AmeriCorps VISTA program by:
- Selecting, matching, and orienting host organizations and Rochester Youth Year members
- Working with host sites and fellows to ensure attainment of goals
- Collecting progress reports from each RYY member for submission to the Corporation for National and Community Service
- Conducting bi-annual host site visits
- Coordinating and dispersing living allowance stipends
- Hosting annual kick-off, mid-year, and end-of-service events
Rochester Youth Year manages the RYY Fellows’ experience by:
- Convening regular meetings and trainings for RYY members
- Sharing of resources to improve the members’ ability to accomplish tasks and goals
- Processing and managing of any disciplinary action
Rochester Youth Year manages all communication with the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS). This includes:
- Management of all paperwork (Memorandums of Understanding, quarterly progress reports, enrollment forms, exit forms, etc.)
- Management of all grant requirements and funds