BOB LANKARD: AmeriCorps a way to serve
March 24, 2013 2:50 AM

Megan Baskerville, VISTA worker with Evergreen Conservancy in Indiana, considers the VISTA program to be “a win-win for the organization and the volunteer.”

She is building her résumé, making professional contacts and is able to test a variety of career paths with her diverse duties, but at the same time give a nonprofit a full-time employee at a very low cost.

Many people think of AmeriCorps as the domestic Peace Corps. It has the same commitment to service but in a distressed area in the United States. AmeriCorps/ VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America) is similar to an internship, but volunteers receive a living allowance rather than a salary. Most volunteers serve 10 months to a year.

AmeriCorps/VISTA promises to make a big difference in your life as well as the people around you. Some volunteer to serve others, others see the help with school costs, and it provides experience to those transitioning to a permanent job. Megan mentioned other benefits of serving with the VISTA program:

The chief benefit of service with AmeriCorps/ VISTA is that a person can gain new skills, experiences and satisfaction that come from helping others, being able to network with professionals in your field, and get help with college costs or student loans.

Each AmeriCorps member who successfully completes a term of AmeriCorps service will receive a Segal AmeriCorps Education Award, which can be used to pay educational expenses at qualified institutions of higher education, for educational training or to repay qualified student loans.

As an AmeriCorps member, you will gain valuable experience that translates directly into job experience in your chosen field.

You will learn teamwork, communication, responsibility and other essential skills that will help you for the rest of your life.

Many find their AmeriCorps year provides them with more experience and skills than they would have gotten in a traditional, paying job.

Most AmeriCorps volunteers are 18 to 24, but it is open to all ages. I have worked with one volunteer that is a grandmother. Others join out of school.

To learn more about AmeriCorps/VISTA, check the AmeriCorp.gov website.

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