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United Way Blog

United Way AmeriCorps VISTA Members: Service as a Way of Life

AmeriCorps VISTA members make a one-year, full-time commitment to serve on a specific project at a nonprofit organization or public agency. VISTA members serving with United Way’s Education AmeriCorps/VISTA Project focus their energies on improving education by building the organizational, administrative, volunteer and financial capacity of organizations serving low-performing schools.

Our VISTAs – indeed most -- are passionate and committed to helping bring individuals and communities out of poverty. That’s a good story, and it gets even better. VISTA members go on to do remarkable things. Crystal Shreve served as a VISTA for a year in Conroe, TX, recruiting volunteers to work with Child Advocates of Montgomery County. She was an ideal person to help United Way launch our national education project, helping to recruit and mentor VISTA members in the field during her second year of service as a VISTA Leader. Now at Playworks, she helps manage and train AmeriCorps members and other volunteers and is responsible for the critical data collection that informs the nonprofit’s programs – skills she learned during her VISTA service.

After starting Land Mindz, Inc., Shelton Land came to United Way of Central Georgia as a VISTA to promote service learning, working with area universities to get involved in tutoring at nearby elementary and middle schools.  Now the manager of education programs at United Way of Central Georgia, Shelton said:

VISTA puts you in the position to really make a difference. We had a voice at the table among movers and shakers.

He also said that although AmeriCorps VISTA members receive a modest living allowance and health benefits during their service, and have the option of receiving an education grant or post-service stipend after completing their service, living at or near the poverty level was a challenge. The benefit, he said, was that:

You get a personal feel of what people are going through, and you can use that knowledge to disrupt the cycle of poverty.

The VISTA program celebrated its 50th anniversary this year, but for the 7,000 AmeriCorps VISTA members serving annually, the passion they bring to their year of service will lead to developing skills to alleviate poverty for a lifetime. Learn more about the VISTA program.

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