Monday, August 29, 2016

Meet the 2016-17 VISTA members!

We are excited to introduce our 2016-17 cohort of new and returning NC Campus Compact Orientation2_cropAmeriCorps VISTAs, who kicked off their year of service earlier this month. The 15 incoming VISTAs were selected from a competitive pool of candidates to serve at 11 campus and community host sites throughout the state. Our VISTAs came together August 17-18th at Elon University for an orientation and service project and have now headed back to their host-sites to continue their valuable work. We thank all our members for their commitment to service and are looking forward to another inspiring year!
We asked our VISTAs to share a little more about themselves including what motivated them to become a NC Campus Compact VISTA, what they are looking forward to most this year and their favorite free time activities. Here's what they had to say:

Christopher Baker
C.BakerHost Site: William Peace University
Partner SiteHope Charter
Focus Area: Education
Hometown: Kingsport, Tennessee
Graduated from: Emory & Henry College in Virginia with a double major in History and Public Policy and Community Service
-As a VISTA at William Peace University, I'm charged with developing a partnership with Hope Charter school and preparing and managing Peace student volunteers. Prior to joining VISTA, I worked as a librarian at High Point University.
-I taught in the public schools for 7 years total and have a Master's in Education.
-Originally from Kingsport, Tennessee, I've lived in Virginia (twice), West Virginia, and now North Carolina (two different places).
Nicole BlyskalN.BlyskalHost Site: East Carolina University
Partner Site: Greenville Harvest
Focus Area: Healthy Futures
Hometown: Mahopac, New York
Graduated from: East Carolina University with a BS in Nutrition/Dietetics
- At ECU I was part of the Student Dietetic Association, worked as a student-worker at the Center for Leadership and Civic Engagement, volunteered with Campus Kitchen and Cultivate Greenville, and participated in multiple National Days of Service.
-Being an NC Campus Compact appealed to me because it will allow to to continue serving the community while learning more about non-profit work and food sustainability.
- For fun I enjoy being outdoors, listening to music and painting.
Erin EspinosaE.Espinosa
Host Site:
 Feast Down East
Partner Site: UNC Wilmington
Focus Area: Healthy Futures
Hometown: Boston, Massachusetts
Graduated from: University of North Carolina Wilmington with a B.S in Environmental Science with a minor in Spanish
- I was drawn to serve with AmeriCorps and FDE after completing a sociology course on poverty and volunteering with similar organizations. I am eager to witness, firsthand, poverty in America and do my part in alleviation.
- Aside from serving, I enjoy choreographing and dancing for various studios and companies. I also have a few years of sustainable farming experience and hope to pursue this further in the future!

Ethan Flynn
Focus Area: Economic Opportunity
Home Town: Marion, NC
Graduated from: Appalachian State University with a major in Sociology
- Sociology has guided me toward social and human services. My choice to become an NC Campus Compact VISTA came from learning how this AmeriCorps program can help me continue the type of work I have passion for.
- I am most looking forward to putting my best effort into making my project successful and enjoyable. I already love the organization I am going to be working for, and I couldn't be happier to begin something new with them.
- In the cold months I snowboard as much as possible with a close group of friends. Being on a snowboard has been my getaway for the past few years, and I can't imagine living anywhere other than the mountains.
Allison Heisel
Host Site: UNC Greensboro Office of Leadership and Service-Learning
Partner Site: BackPack Beginnings
Focus Area: Healthy Futures
Hometown: Fairfax, VA
Graduated from: College of William & Mary with a B.A. in Philosophy
- During my time at William & Mary, I was an actively engaged in Branch Out Alternative Breaks as a participant, site leader, and student director, and was the founder and facilitator of the Diversity in Philosophy Discussion Group.
- I am excited to be an NC Campus Compact AC/VISTA because I believe in the connective and community-building power of food, and I am eager to learn how to be a better advocate and ally in the movement for intersectional food justice.
-In my free time, I enjoy working on farms and in gardens, as well as cooking with and for my family and friends. I can also often be found curled up with a good book or philosophically-oriented podcast.
Patrick LongP.Long
Host Site:
 Western Carolina University
Partner Site:  The Community Table
Focus Area: Healthy Futures
Hometown: Charlotte, NC
Graduated from: Appalachian State University with a degree in Psychology
- In undergrad I was involved in our leadership development office and service learning office, as well as serving as chapter president of Amnesty International on our campus. I was interested in being a campus compact VISTA, because it gave me the opportunity to combine two of my main interests; student affairs and non profit work. I'm most looking forward to all the skills and abilities I can learn as a VISTA.
-In my free time I enjoy hiking and binge watching indie movies.
Brittaney McClureB.McClure
Host Site:
 High Point University
Partner Site:  Washington St. Project
Focus Area: Healthy Futures
Graduated from: High Point University with a B.A. in Communication and minor in Photography
- The dedication and impact that being a VISTA for the North Carolina Compact in the local community appealed to me the most when applying for this position.  I am really looking forward to partnering with the community to help them create bright futures and learning about each person's story.
-For fun I love to go out and photograph people and nature.
Gabrielle MiddlebrooksG.Middlebrooks
Host Site:
 Marian Cheek Jackson Center for Saving and Making History
Partner Site:  UNC Chapel Hill Department of Communications
Focus Area: Economic Opportunity
Graduated from: University at Albany with a B.A. in political science
-Campus Compact reflected many of the same values, and long term community service goals I upheld as an undergraduate.
-I'm looking forward to joining the Marian Cheek Jackson Center in their efforts to honor, renew and build community in the Northside and Pine Knolls neighborhoods of Chapel Hill.
Samantha PaternoS.Paterno
Host Site:
 High Point University
Partner Site:  Washington St. Project
Focus Area: Education
Hometown: Chapel Hill, North Carolina
Graduated from: High Point University with a degree in Strategic Communications
-My host site is High Point University! I will be focusing on education in the High Point Community. I was a member of Alpha Delta Theta, the christian service sorority on campus and spent a year as Chaplain for the sorority. I am looking forward to working in the High Point community this upcoming year!
-I love playing any and all sports!
Brittany ReyesBReyes
Host Site:
 Duke University Community Service Center
Partner Site:  Durham Public Schools
Focus Area: Education
Hometown: Chapel Hill, North Carolina
Graduated from: University of North Carolina at Greensboro with a BA in Arts and concentration in Communication Studies
- I have always wanted to work in a program setting helping parents and children in the community to help them succeed together. Here at Duke I will be getting that opportunity I've always dreamed of.
-Walking from this I'll have the tools and experience I need to make a difference in the community.
Jenna RosenbloomJ.Rosenbloom
Host Site:
 High Point University
Partner Site: West End Ministries
Focus Area: Healthy Futures
Hometown: Pittsburgh, PA
Graduated from: High Point University with a BA in Nonprofit Leadership and Management and minor in Women and Gender Studies
-I am a Phi Mu Gamma Zeta Alumni and had the opportunity to participate in team events within the greek life at High Point University. What appealed to me most about being an NC Campus Compact VISTA was the opportunity to gain experience within the community/nonprofit sector as well as the chance to make a difference for those in need, thus following my passion of helping others.
-During my free time I like to hike, go to the gym, paint, kayak, watch movies, go on unplanned adventures, and spend time with my loved ones.

Lizzie Shepard
Partner Site: West Greenville Community Youth-Based Partners
Focus Area: Education
Hometown: Walkertown, NC
Graduated from: Queens University of Charlotte with a major in Psychology
- I enjoy giving back to the community and I was encouraged to join by a past VISTA.
- I am looking forward to help those in need and to be a positive role model while gaining experience this year.
- I like to spend time with friends in my free time.
Priya SreenivasanP.Sreenivasan
Host Site:
 Community Empowerment Fund
Partner Site: UNC Chapel Hill-NC Poverty Research Fund
Focus Area: Economic Opportunity
Hometown: Cary, NC
Graduated from: UNC-Chapel Hill with a BA in Psychology and a minor in Social and Economic Justice
-I am excited to help the Community Empowerment Fund (CEF) improve data collection and the financial savings program. I am also looking forward to creating a new network with fellow VISTA members.
-I volunteered with CEF in college, and participated in the APPLES Service Learning program, both of which led me to apply for a position with NC Campus Compact.
-In my free time I love hiking, jogging, and spending quality time with friends.
Megan StanleyM.Stanley
Host Site:
 Marion Cheek Jackson Center for Saving and Making History
Partner SiteUNC Chapel Hill Department of Communications
Focus Area: Education
Graduated from: UNC-Chapel Hill with a Bachelors of Science in Psychology and two minors in Education and Medical Anthropology
-Characterizing my time at Carolina, service has been at the forefront of my journey as a Tar Heel and is one thing I look forward to continuing with NC Campus Compact.
-As I transition into this VISTA role, I am most excited to learn and connect with the Northside community and help the youth see themselves in a rich history that surrounds them each day! I'm hoping to make fulfilling connections and further explore education as a passion.
-Fun: Watching the Food Network; Running; Baking; Meeting new people and hearing their stories/backgrounds
Audrey WaggonerA.Waggoner
Host Site:
 Guilford College
Partner Site: Guilford College Farm
Focus Area: Healthy Futures
Hometown: Charlotte, NC
Graduated from: UNC-Chapel Hill with a BA in Psychology and a minor in Social and Economic Justice
-What attracted me to the VISTA program has been my experience with community outreach and gardening. I have been so inspired and motivated by people I’ve met that see their neighbors as extended family.
-I also am interested in self-sufficiency in terms of learning and appreciating how to do things for yourself like making yogurt, re-glazing a window, building something.
-And finally, I like connecting with people through food, cooking, and gardening which just so happens to be a major component of my VISTA position :)

Friday, June 24, 2016

Election year reminder regarding prohibited political activity

FROM Corporation for National and Community Service notice, June 22:
As a general matter:  
Never mix election activity and CNCS resources—money or national service participants (AmeriCorps members, including VISTAs and NCCC, or Senior Corps volunteers). 
Specifically, don’t use federal funds, charge time to your grant directly or as match, accumulate service or training hours, or direct or allow national service participants to engage in prohibited political activities, which generally includes (but isn’t limited to):
  • organizing or attending political events, demonstrations, protests, petitions, rallies, etc.;
  • participating in, endorsing, or advocating for or against political parties, platforms, groups, or candidates;
  • conducting voter registration or other get-out-the-vote activity; and
  • posting election-oriented messages on social media (using CNCS funds or with reference to CNCS programs).
This is a general reminder, not a detailed summary of the law.  You can find the precise restrictions applicable to you or your program in your grant terms and conditions, member agreement, or related documents.
Of course, individuals may exercise their rights as private citizens to participate in political activities:
  • on their own initiative and personal time[1];
  • not affiliated with CNCS programs or supported by CNCS funds; and
  • not wearing any program insignia, logo, or uniform.
Again, it is very important to avoid any perception that CNCS resources (money or national service participants) are being misused.
Full notice:

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Announcing the 2016-17 VISTA Host Sites!

We are thrilled to continue work with many of our host sites and partners and to establish new VISTA host sites in the coming project year. Below are summaries of projects VISTA members will undertake at these 14 sites.

America Reads and Counts in partnership with
Duke University
Durham, NC
Focus Area: Education

The Duke Community Service Center (CSC) serves as a clearinghouse of volunteer opportunities available to Duke students and employees. The VISTA will help the Duke Community Service Center (CSC) further deepen relationships with partner schools and community agencies through a new program - Partners in Print (Print Pals). Print Pals is a family literacy program aimed at Latino parents and children here in Durham area. The program will provide a supportive environment where parents can discover how to help their children learn to read. Print Pal mentors will conduct evening workshops with parents and children, grades Kindergarten-2nd. The VISTA will also coordinate Print Pals sessions and volunteers, as well as complementary CSC events and programs that align with the Partners in Print Program, including National Make a Difference Day, Dive Into Durham alternative spring break, and Dr. Seuss Day.

Community Empowerment Fund in partnership with 
UNC-Chapel Hill
Chapel Hill, NC
Focus area: Economic Opportunity

The Community Empowerment Fund (CEF) cultivates opportunities, assets, and communities that support the alleviation of homelessness and poverty. CEF is a student-led nonprofit organization based at UNC Chapel Hill and Duke University. CEF’s structure is based on the realization of a dual mission: empowering members to sustain transitions out of homelessness and developing student leadership. At CEF the VISTA will help address the need for 1) relationship- based support that leads to greater economic opportunity for individuals experiencing or at-risk of experiencing homelessness; 2) access to financial services for low-income households, and; 3) a broader, more tightly-woven social safety net for poor households in North Carolina. The goal of this project is to increase the capacity and effectiveness of CEF’s Advocate Program

East Carolina University
Greenville, NC

Two VISTA members will be hosted by ECU’s Volunteer and Service-Learning Center (VSLC). In addition to the campus and community-based work below, these members will support campus and community-wide day of service events, including MLK Day of Service.

Partner: West Greenville community agencies
Focus Area: Education

This VISTA project will capitalize on the strengths of ECU and the west Greenville community, specifically Third Street and Lucille W. Gorham Inter-Generational Community Centers. The VISTA will build the capacity for both centers to address community needs related to education and youth development for K-8 low-income youth and families and strengthen the west Greenville community partnerships and community as a whole.

Partner: Greenville Harvest
Focus Area: Healthy Futures

The VISTA will be hosted by the Department of Nutrition Science. VISTA will work to build relationships and help support reciprocal benefits among the Greenville community, specifically through Greenville Harvest partners, a local network of community gardens and affiliated agencies. The VISTA will support collaboration and partnership development among network partners, including the university. The VISTA will plan and deploy community engagement activities centered on healthy lifestyles and healthy communities.

Feast Down East in partnership with
UNC Wilmington
Wilmington, NC
Focus Area: Healthy Futures

Feast Down East (FDE) is a university affiliated non-profit with a mission to join institutions, community-based agencies, farmers, and businesses to support, coordinate and expand the production, processing, distribution, and consumption of local foods. The VISTA placement supports FDE’s Food Sovereignty Program, which brings fresh, local produce via weekly fresh markets and produce boxes to four Wilmington Housing Authority neighborhoods. In addition to bringing fresh produce to these identified food deserts, the Food Sovereignty program engages resident leaders and UNCW volunteers in the operation and promotion of the markets, supports nutrition/garden programs for both adults and children. The VISTA will continue to oversee and improve the markets, train resident leaders and volunteers, and work with partner organizations including the WHA to plan for sustainability.

                                     Guilford College in partnership with the Guilford College Farm
Greensboro, NC
Focus Area: Healthy Futures

In Guilford County, 89,000 people do not have enough food to eat and 30 percent of them are children. In May 2011, the USDA designated 15 census tracts in Guilford County as “food deserts.” Nine are in the city of Greensboro and six are in High Point. Food deserts are census tracts where at least 33 percent of residents live more than one mile from a full-service grocery store and more than 20 percent of residents live below the poverty line. The Bonner Center at Guilford College works with community partners in every food desert in Greensboro. The immigrant and refugee community is especially hard hit. The VISTA will work with students and community partners to facilitate collaborative efforts to increase access to healthy food in the city’s food deserts. 

High Point University High Point, NC 

Three VISTAs will be hosted by High Point University’s Service Learning Program, which is home to the Bonner Leaders Program. In addition to their community-based work described below, the VISTAs will help develop trainings and supports for Bonner students who also serve with local agencies. The VISTA will also help energize campus and community members to participate in the MLK Day of Service.

Partner: West End Ministries
Focus Area: Healthy Futures

This VISTA’s work will take place on campus and in the community with West End Ministries (WEM), a non-profit agency that provides services such as emergency assistance and adult life skill classes. The VISTA will improve WEM's volunteer coordination and training systems to support the agency's emergency assistance program. The VISTA will also help make healthy food more available to WEM clients by developing a community garden with local stakeholders.

Partner: Washington St. Project
Focus Area(s): Healthy Futures, Education

Two VISTA members will work with the Washington St. Project, emphasizing local food security and youth development. One VISTA will create and execute a neighborhood food plan, including a needs analysis and asset mapping to increase resident access to healthy foods through community gardening and a fresh market. The second VISTA will work to grow local afterschool enrichment programs, including a community writing center, and to increase other educational programs for residents.

Hospitality House of Boone in partnership with Appalachian State University
Boone, NC
Focus Area: Economic Opportunity

Hospitality House of Boone serves people at-risk of or experiencing homelessness in Watauga County. The goal of the VISTA project is to strengthen the Welcome Home Thriftique store, which provides an earned income funding source for Hospitality House, acts as a resource for services to meet client needs and serves as a job skills training site for residents and outreach clients. The VISTA will lead all aspects of Thriftique operation, including volunteer management, and will continue development of a job skills training program. To carry out these activities, the VISTA will also collaborate with the ASU ACT Office.

Marian Cheek Jackson Center for Saving and Making History
in partnership with UNC-Chapel Hill
Chapel Hill, NC

The Jackson Center is a community-based advocacy organization serving historically African-American and low-income neighborhoods in Chapel Hill through public history, civic media, and community action. The center will host two VISTAs to support its work.

Focus Area: Economic Opportunity
The Community Organizing and Advocacy VISTA will support the development of Jackson Center programs that serve the housing and economic needs of local low-income residents. Key activities include the maintenance and expansion of service partnerships with university units (including the Communications Studies department), enhancement of community programs to serve housing needs, volunteer recruitment and coordination, database maintenance, and the development of new neighborhood advocacy networks to pair long-term residents with students and community advocates.

Focus area: Education
The Education VISTA will strengthen ongoing partnerships with 6 area schools to implement “Learning Here and Now Across Generations” -- a curriculum aligned with NC course of study standards to focus on civil rights, oral history, and cross-generational education-- designed to engage and support learning of at-risk students. The VISTA will connect with university experts and develop a cadre of resident educators.

North Carolina Wesleyan College in partnership with Peacemakers
Rocky Mount, NC
Focus Area: Education

North Carolina Wesleyan College has a special commitment to the Rocky Mount area and to eastern North Carolina. The VISTA will focus on improving educational and behavioral outcomes for at-risk students in low-achieving schools by formally connecting North Carolina Wesleyan College to Peacemakers. This organization contains four structured educational programs in need of volunteer support in order to carry out its mission, part of which is to provide an affirming environment where low-income elementary and middle school students receive tutoring and other academic enrichment services at no charge.

In addition to this direct work with Peacemaker’s the VISTA will enhance volunteer recruitment efforts to engage NCWC students, faculty and staff into education-related community service projects that may be available with other organizations by creating a database of opportunities and a service placement process for groups and individuals. The VISTA will also create effective recruitment materials and strategies by first hosting campus focus groups and researching best practices.

S.G. Atkins Community Development Corporation
in partnership with Winston-Salem State University
Winston-Salem, NC
Focus Area: Economic Opportunity

The Simon Green Atkins Community Development Corporation (Atkins CDC) is a 501c3 nonprofit organization created by Winston-Salem State University (WSSU) in 1998 and named after its founder. The mission is to be a catalyst for community economic development and to create community engagement opportunities for the WSSU faculty and students. The CDC is supported by a full-time staff of three and an advisory board of local community members, businesses, and University faculty and staff.

The VISTA project will provide the Host’s primary community-based outreach working daily on increasing community engagement with the guidance and support of faculty, students and stakeholders from the partner organization. The CDC staff will supervise and provide resources for the work of the VISTA including necessary training to be successful. Two primary objectives are to convene neighborhood associations and stakeholders as a “congress” working toward common goals such as training to build capacity and membership of associations, establishing a merchants association, facilitating a community-wide event such as a community day featuring health, safety, and employment information and a community-wide clean up event.

UNC-Greensboro in partnership with BackPack Beginnings
Greensboro, NC
Focus Area: Healthy Futures

At UNC-Greensboro, the VISTA member will be hosted by the Office and Leadership and Service-Learning, which serves as a catalyst for the development of experiential curricular and co-curricular leadership and service-learning initiatives. The VISTA will focus on food insecurity and access to healthy food in Guilford County by supporting a developing partnership with Backpack Beginnings, by supporting an emerging on-campus Food Security Network, and by increasing awareness of food security issues on campus and in the community.

UNC-Greensboro in partnership with Degrees Matter
Greensboro, NC
Focus Area: Education

Degrees Matter! is a collaborative initiative working to find and assist the more than 67,000 residents of Guilford County who have some college but have yet to complete a degree or certification. Degrees Matter! is leading the effort to reach the community-wide goal of adding, by 2025, 40,000 new degree holders in the county. The VISTA placement will focus on outreach and partnership development by increasing connections to key constituencies and organizations, including childcare and early education providers, faith-based groups, and agencies providing services to low-income individuals.

Western Carolina University in partnership withThe Community Table
Cullowhee, NC
Focus Area: Healthy Futures

The goal for this VISTA project is to strengthen relationships between WCU, the Community Table, the Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Program (ASAP) and the Local Food and Farm to School Education Program; to build capacity at the Community Table and ASAP/LFFSEP, and to raise awareness about food insecurity in Western NC. The project aims to provide the Community Table and ASAP/LFFSEP with the food resources necessary to meet customers’ needs, to train and manage volunteers, and to enhance publicity and outreach efforts. The project is also intended to increase awareness of food insecurity issues on campus and in the wider community.

William Peace University in partnership with Hope Charter
Raleigh, NC
Focus Area: Education

Currently Hope Charter does not have interventions outside of what our classroom teachers can offer. In an attempt to increase EOG test scores we would like to implement a program in which volunteers would assist with providing leveled interventions for struggling learners. The VISTA will be charged with working closely with WPU staff, faculty, and students to build initiatives for Hope and to communicate between the service-site and WPU. This position will provide both education about service-learning and the connections and an added resource for faculty interested in building service learning into coursework. Through VISTA we’ll be working towards closing the achievement gap and increasing test scores at Hope.

Monday, February 15, 2016

2016-17 Cohort Now Accepting Applications!

Now Accepting Applications for 2016-2017 VISTA Members!

Are you ready to serve North Carolina? Come make a difference with us!

NC Campus Compact is now accepting applications from candidates for 2016-2017 AmeriCorps VISTA positions. Our next VISTA cohort will begin on August 5, 2016 and will serve one full year.

To learn more about our program and the application process, visit our FAQ page for Prospective VISTAs.

Please visit our position listing on when you are ready to create your AmeriCorps application and begin our application process.

According to Opportunity Index, 17.5% North Carolinians live in poverty. Low income communities face many challenges, including access to healthy food, employment, and education resources.

Our VISTA members serve North Carolina's most vulnerable people by working with local community agencies and college campuses to address the needs of low income communities. Our VISTAs serve at 15 different sites across the state, from Cullowhee to Wilmington and many places in between! Placement locations will be finalized soon, come back to learn more!

As a VISTA, you could be involved in many different capacity-building activities. For example, you may:
    • Prepare a community needs and assets evaluation
    • Develop a new program that benefits low-income community members
    • Recruit, train, and manage volunteers
    • Write grants or organize fundraisers to bring new resources to your organization
    • Support citizen and student leadership and participation in service
    • Plan national service day events
    • Facilitate service-learning placements, community-based research, and co-curricular opportunities that support communities
    Want to know more? You can read more about our VISTA's experience in their own words right here on the blog!

    Friday, January 8, 2016

    2015 VISTA Year in Review!

    Some of our favorite highlights from another year of AmeriCorps VISTA, building capacity of community-based service programs that benefit both campus and community partners.

    VISTA program celebrates 50th Anniversary with help from NC Campus Compact VISTA Leaders Perdita Das and Catherine Casteel. They were key organizers of the state anniversary event: a sunny day of service and fellowship at Lifespan in Greensboro.

    VLDR Perdita Das gives then-national director Paul Monteiro a piece of her mind! Actually, she was extremely polite and honest about the challenges VISTA Leaders and members face. A week after their conversation, VISTA changed rules regarding second employment. Coincidence?

    NC Campus Compact VISTA alum Carolyn Byrne Rifkin returns to the Compact as VISTA program coordinator!

    The Marian Cheek Jackson Center -- with the help of UNC, Self-Help Credit Union, and other partners -- realizes a plan to create a multi-million dollar landbank to preserve affordable housing in Northside.

    The Hospitality House's Welcome Home Thriftique celebrates its 1-year anniversary.

    Our 2014-15 VISTA cohort rolls up the numbers, as shown in the infographic (left), prepared by VLDR Catherine Casteel. But just imagine how much impact they made that's not accounted for in these tallies!

    NC Campus Compact hosts a new, 2-day orientation program for new VISTA members, featuring some hands-on service, a presentation by NC Fund historian Robert Korstad, and relationship building!

    The 2015-16 VISTAs get rolling and hit major milestones:

    Since August, our newest NC Campus Compact VISTAs have managed 726 volunteers and have raised cash and in-kind donations valued at just over $80,000.

    The work of the education-focused VISTAs served 694 students, 224 of whom have entered post-secondary education.

    VISTAs serving in Healthy Futures projects reported 249 people experiencing increased food security and 2,653 people receiving support for hunger.

    And 120 people received financial literacy education, 520 received job skills training and 43 people were placed in jobs in part because of the work of the Economic Opportunity VISTAs.

    Monday, January 4, 2016

    NOW AVAILABLE: 2016-17 VISTA Host Site Applications

    NC Campus Compact has released the application to host an AmeriCorps VISTA for 2016-17. 

    NC Campus Compact member campus units may apply with a community partner OR community-based organizations may apply with a member campus partner.

    What is VISTA?
    VISTA is an AmeriCorps program that engages individuals in a year of full-time service with a sponsoring organization to create or expand programs that bring individuals and communities out of poverty. The VISTA program was created in 1964 as Volunteers In Service To America. Today, more than 7000 VISTA members serve with community-based organizations and governmental agencies across the United States. Like other AmeriCorps programs, VISTA is administered by the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS), a federal agency that seeks to improve lives, strengthen communities, and foster civic engagement through service and volunteering.

    All VISTA projects must demonstrate four key principles:
    Anti-poverty focus
    Community empowerment 

    The purpose of VISTA is to build capacity of non-profit organizations and communities to help bring individuals and communities out of poverty. Projects should be responsive and relevant to the lives of community residents and engage them in project planning and evaluation. Activities should focus on building capacity of organizations or communities, rather than providing direct service to individuals. As short-term resources designed to create long-term solutions, VISTA must focus on sustainable improvements that will last beyond the VISTA term. Host site applicants should keep these key principles in mind as they consider their plans for a VISTA’s service. 

    For more information or to discuss a proposal you may contact VISTA program coordinator, Carolyn Rifkin.

    For update and the application, visit the Host Site Application Info page.

    Thursday, December 17, 2015

    The Gap

    Natasha Vos

    There have been a lot of conversations this year about the financial model that AmeriCorps VISTA uses to pay its members. Currently, the stipend for the year is set at 105% of the poverty line of the county that the member is serving in. For me, that means I can expect to receive around $11,400 for the year, or $442 every two weeks. The logic behind this is that we can have (in at least a small way) a shared experience with those living in the communities we serve. We intensively plan out budgets, enroll in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), seek out public transportation, and look for cheap housing. If anything, my experience has informed me that those living in poverty are actually the best at using financial resources, because they have so little to work with in many cases. I recognize the limitations of this model in its inability to account for factors such as family size and support, transportation, personal, physical and emotional health, education, etc. which is why I say a shared experience, 'in at least a small way'. Many AmeriCorps members elect to go through application processes for benefit programs such as SNAP, and recently the Healthcare Marketplace.

    This year I turned 26. The only birthday milestone that you do not look forward to because you officially get the boot from your parents’ health care plan. As an AmeriCorps member in North Carolina, I fall in this health care limbo referred to as “the gap.” Try to follow me here because it gets a little complicated. I exist in an income level with my stipend that is too low to qualify for monthly federal tax credits to help me pay for the most basic health care plan. However, because North Carolina as a state did not expand Medicaid, this same income level (105% of the poverty line in Forsyth County), was too high to qualify me for Medicaid. The consolation prize? An exemption that would prevent me from being penalized on my taxes for not having health care.

    Fortunately, being a second term AmeriCorps member I had earned my educational award of $5645 to be used towards my existing student loans. Because the education award is a taxable source of income, using it entirely this year, bumps me up into the next income bracket, qualifying me for tax credits and an affordable health care plan. Fantastic right? Here’s the drawback: the education award is a taxable source of income that taxes have not been taken out of, so I will end up owing several hundred dollars for using it all this year in addition to state taxes I will owe, because they are not taken out of our weekly paychecks. Many AmeriCorps members choose to use their education awards slowly over time to pay a minimum in taxes on them. I had to essentially do a cost benefit analysis. Not having health care was not an option. Purchasing my own plan would have cost me $200 per month, but using my education award would result in $300-400 in taxes once. Easy choice, but I’m still forking over a couple hundred dollars, which for someone making $11,400 a year, is challenging.

    AmeriCorps offers its members a $6600 allowance per year to be used on approved health care costs, but you have to a have plan first. This is not a critique of AmeriCorps or its policies. This is using myself as a personal example to demonstrate challenges that low income individuals face to providing basic care for themselves and their families. I had the luxury of choosing to use my education award to ensure that I make enough to qualify for tax credits and an affordable health care plan. There are millions of families and individuals that do not have this luxury. The Affordable Care Act has provided healthcare to millions in this country for the first time. It has withstood many challenges to its constitutionality, and that should be (and has been) celebrated. But cracks have appeared that allowed states to choose whether to expand Medicaid and in over half of the states, that choice was no. However you feel about state’s rights, the fact is that because of North Carolina’s decision not to expand Medicaid millions of individuals and families still do not have health care. Progress is never content and we need to continue to find these gaps and close them.