Program FAQ


What is AmeriCorps VISTA?

VISTA is the national service program designed specifically to fight poverty. Authorized in 1964 and founded as Volunteers in Service to America in 1965, VISTA was incorporated into the AmeriCorps network of programs in 1993. VISTA has been on the front lines in the fight against poverty in America for 50 years.

Who is eligible to apply?

You must be a U.S. citizen, national, or legal permanent resident alien of the United States to be a VISTA. You must be at least 18 years old, but there is no upper age limit.

What do MCN AmeriCorps VISTA members do?

MCN AmeriCorps VISTA members serve full-time for a year at nonprofits in Minnesota. VISTAs perform indirect service, which means they help build the capacity of organizations to deliver valuable direct services to people living in poverty. VISTAs typically create new programs, write grants, and recruit volunteers. For example, a VISTA could establish a tutoring program, recruit and train volunteers, and raise money for the program—but would not tutor the children.

What does it mean that MCN "sponsors" VISTA positions?

VISTA sponsors are organizations that grant VISTA positions to other organizations and act as intermediaries between the national VISTA program and these “host sites.” Each sponsor site stipulates that its VISTA host site positions focus on a specific issue area, such as employment or education, with the overlying goal of alleviating poverty. MCN provides administrative support to its sites and professional development opportunities to its participating VISTA members.

How is MCN different from other VISTA sponsors?

MCN’s project focuses on alleviating poverty in immigrant and refugee communities and communities of color by working with nonprofits serving these groups. Other sponsor sites may focus specifically on issues like literacy, employment or education.

What does it mean to be part of a VISTA "cohort"?

MCN VISTAs meet at least once a month for professional development retreats and are encouraged to collaborate and connect with one another both inside and out of work. This cohort of VISTAs provides a supportive peer-learning environment for our members as they grow and overcome obstacles during their terms of service.

When would I serve, and for how long?

The MCN VISTA cohort runs for a full year beginning in August and ending in July. VISTAs can serve for up to five one-year terms, but they can only earn up to two education awards.

What do VISTA members typically do after completing their service?

VISTA is committed to preparing members for post-service life. Many members go on to grad school, find jobs at their host sites or through connections made during their service years, or complete a second year of service.

Can I choose my host site?

When applying for a position, prospective VISTAs apply and interview directly with their desired host site. All MCN VISTA host sites are located within or near the Twin Cities. To learn more about our hosts, where they are and what they do, visit our Meet Our Hosts page.

What kind of training and support will I receive?

The Minnesota Council of Nonprofits AmeriCorps VISTA Program is committed to investing in its members’ professional development. We estimate that our members receive more than 120 hours of support and training throughout the service year. See our professional development page for more information.

When can I apply?

Position descriptions and instructions for how to apply will be posted in March of 2017. Service members will be selected by early June. To receive updates on applying for the 2017-2018 cohort, send us your contact information on the Contact Us.

 

VISTA Benefits


Will I get paid?

MCN VISTAs receive a bi-weekly living allowance totaling $11,880 annually, subject to income tax. VISTA members who successfully complete a term of service are also eligible to receive either a Segal AmeriCorps Education Award of $5,815 or an end-of-service cash stipend of $1,500.

What is the Segal Education Award and how can I use it?

The Segal AmeriCorps Education Award is a post-service benefit of $5,775 for participants who complete a 12-month term. It may be used to pay educational costs at eligible post-secondary educational institutions, as well as to repay qualified student loans. The Segal Award is subject to income tax.

I can't afford to serve because of student loans.

VISTA members are eligible to postpone payments on qualified federal student loans during their term of service (called a forbearance). Upon successful completion of service, members are also eligible to have all or a portion of the interest that accrued during their term paid off.

What are "qualified" student loans?

A “qualified” student loan is any federally backed student loan in the VISTA member’s name. If you do not know if your loans are qualified, ask your lenders. There should also be a citation on the loan papers, referring to Title IV of the Higher Education Act or Title VII or VIII of the Public Health Services Act.

Will I receive health care benefits?

AmeriCorps VISTA provides a Healthcare Allowance benefit to members who maintain primary health coverage from another provider. This option covers out-of-pocket expenses like copayments and deductibles. A basic Health Benefits Plan is also available for those who are legally exempt from the federal requirement to maintain health care coverage.

Does VISTA provide child care benefits?

To qualify for a $400 monthly child care benefit, your household income must not exceed the limit determined by the state of Minnesota; you must not already receive a child care subsidy from another source for the same child; and your child must be under age 13.

Will I qualify for SNAP benefits (food stamps)?

While many service members may apply for and receive SNAP, AmeriCorps VISTA cannot guarantee eligibility.

Can I hold another job during my service?

VISTA members may work for up to 20 hours a week in outside employment. Any outside employment must not conflict with the VISTA member’s training, service, or service hours as assigned by AmeriCorps VISTA or the sponsor. Find more information on AmeriCorps VISTA's Outside Employment Policy here.

Will VISTA pay me to relocate?

VISTA candidates approved to relocate to serve are eligible for a Relocation Travel Allowance, which is intended to off-set the cost of relocating to serve and the shipment of personal effects between the home of record and the service site. The rate, established by the federal government and the VISTA program, is based on the mileage between the home of record and the site, not to exceed $1,000.

Members moving 50 miles or more from their home of record are also eligible for a settling-in allowance of no more than $550. It is disbursed in the regular biweekly living allowance payment.

What is Non-competitive Eligibility?

VISTA members receive one year of Non-Competitive Eligibility for federal jobs. Non-Competitive Eligibility will allow VISTA members to apply for post-service federal jobs that are not publicly posted, which could give them a leg up in the federal hiring process.

What other policies or restrictions should I be aware of?

For more in depth information on VISTA policies and restrictions, visit the VISTA Member Handbook . You can also find a summary of some of the important and relevant policies as identified by the MCN VISTA program on our VISTA Policies page.