Welcome to the Alliance VISTA Toolbox! The toolbox has information, resources, and tools to support members’ implementation of the VISTA program.
Alliance VISTA Model
AmeriCorps & National Service Information
Alliance AmeriCorps VISTA Program Overview
Alliance VISTA Members strengthen communities and bring youth out of poverty by serving at non-profits, government agencies, community-wide coalitions and statewide agencies to implement three key strategies:
- Build capacity at their host site organization to help address education inequities such as the achievement and opportunity gaps
- Coordinate efforts that bridge and build the integration of school and community wide support for youth, focused on providing and sharing resources that increase a young person’s school attendance, behavior and/or course performance (all indicators with a strong link to academic engagement and high school graduation)
- Actively engage youth as agents of change in closing the opportunity and achievement gaps in their communities
Alliance VISTA Member activities increase the capacity of their site and community to support young people, and lead to significant increases in the number of additional activities able to be carried out by the host organization and its partners.
Possible activities VISTA Members perform that provide a direct link to increasing educational equity in Minnesota include:
- Creating or improving data systems to increase host site’s ability to track, evaluate, and replicate positive youth interventions
- Establishing/strengthening volunteer programs
- Developing and implementing a process for recruiting volunteers and caring adults to work with youth
- Convening partners to align goals and activities
- Researching best practices relating to educational equity and conducting literature reviews
- Identifying and integrating best practices into communities and organizations
- Creating resources and materials to help inform the community
- Creating or promoting leadership and civic engagement opportunities for youth
- Researching youth-led programming models and identifying opportunities to engage youth in co-creating programming
Learn more about Minnesota Alliance With Youth’s AmeriCorps Program Overview.
- Training Materials and Calendar
- Living Allowance Calendar
- Food Support – Application process for SNAP benefits (food stamps). Find official certifications of Service on your My AmeriCorps account under “My Service Letter.” If you need a letter with more details, contact your VISTA Leader.
- How to Apply for SNAP
- Childcare Assistance– Members may be eligible to receive reimbursement for qualified childcare services. The Alliance must sign all applications and certify service.
- Minnesota VISTA Living Guide
- Discounts Near You – Growing list of discounts and free activities for members to explore.
- Tax Resources – new to taxes? Check out these resources and tips for FREE filing.
- Life After AmeriCorps Resources – find a list of matching institutions, financial aid, and other places/ways to use your ed award!
Education Award and Student Loans
CNCS: Education Award – Ed Stories and Guidebook
- Forbearance Guide – eligible federal student loans only
- Postponing Student Loan Payments and Getting Interest Paid
- Tax Implications and Tax Strategies
- Using your Segal AmeriCorps Education Award
- Education Award Uses: Loans and School
Alliance Guide – Student Loan Forbearance and Resources Review
Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program: AmeriCorps service is eligible for the PSLF Program; this program allows qualifying federal student loans to be forgiven after 10 years working at a qualified employer. You may receive credit by either making monthly, on-time, income-based payments during your service or by making a lump sum payment from the education award toward a qualified loan. Read the resources below to learn more:
- VISTA Professional Development Plan (PDF), Professional Development Plan (Word Doc), & Guide to Developing SMART Goals
- Minnesota Youth Intervention Programs Association (YIPA): VISTAs can attend in-person or online training for free, as well as access the on-demand library of training. *Make sure to note you are a VISTA with Minnesota Alliance With Youth when registering.
- UMN Center for Youth Development
- Young Nonprofit Professionals Network Twin Cities (YNPN)
- Diversity and Equity Education Resource Library
Life After AmeriCorps and Alumni Services
Forms and Policies
- Outside Employment Request
- Healthcare Allowance Medical Reimbursement Form
- Professional Development Funds Request Form
Alliance VISTA Policies
The information below summarizes key Alliance VISTA Program policies.
To learn more about specific questions or concerns about these or other topics, please refer to the VISTA Member Handbook or contact the Minnesota State Office of the Corporation for National and Community Service.
Personal and Sick Time Tracking
All VISTAs are allowed 10 sick days and 10 personal days. Alliance VISTAs are required to gain prior approval from their supervisor for all sick and personal days that they use during the service year. VISTAs must report the number of sick and personal days taken in their monthly reporting to the Alliance. Supervisors review and approve personal and sick days taken when submitting periodic reports.
VISTAs may request up to 5 emergency days in extenuating circumstances. If you need to utilize the emergency days, please be in touch with your VISTA Leader and Alliance Trainer as soon as possible. You can learn more about what kind of time off is permissible on the VISTA Campus.
Holiday and Office Closures
If a VISTA member’s host site is closed for more than 5 business days over the holidays or for spring break, the member needs to either serve at an alternative site or complete the VISTA teleservice form. An alternative site cannot be a member’s home. Examples of possible alternative sites include satellite offices of the Host Site, the Alliance, a coffee shop, or a library. Members need to identify their alternative site location and send an email to their supervisor, VISTA Leader, and VISTA Program Manager stating the alternative location and which days they will be serving at the alternative location.
If a Member elects to teleserve, it is not to exceed two days per pay period (14 continuous days) and needs to be approved by both the VISTA supervisor and the CNCS State Office. See full policy below.
Requests for episodic teleservice, not to exceed two days per pay period (a pay period is 14 continuous days), may be considered after a member has been serving satisfactorily at the project site at least three months. Both the supervisor and the CNCS State Office must agree that the following VISTA service requirements are fully satisfied:
- The member knows the organization and the people within it well enough to effectively build capacity within the organization
- The member lives near and serves the people in the community and knows the community and people sufficiently to serve them well
- The member has proven to the sponsor/supervisor to be a reliable team member (punctual, motivated, professional, thorough, etc.)
- The member understands that VISTA service is not a 9-5 assignment; that it demands flexibility and availability in one’s schedule
- The supervisor acts as a coach and mentor and goes beyond the responsibilities of a supervisor to an employee
- The member has access to reliable internet and phone to be able to teleserve and be contacted as needed.
In addition to the prerequisites above, the member’s VAD must lend itself to teleservice by including tasks that can be completed from home.
To apply for an episodic teleservice arrangement, a member must complete the Teleservice Checklist form including obtaining the VISTA supervisor’s approval and signature and submit the form to the Alliance for approval. The Alliance passes the teleservice request to the State Office for final approval. A member cannot engage in teleservice unless the member gets the written approval of both the VISTA supervisor and the CNCS State Office. At the discretion of the CNCS State Office, a teleservice arrangement for a member can be revoked at any time, without prior notice
Alliance VISTA Periodic Reporting & Monthly Reflections
Minnesota Alliance With Youth VISTAs are responsible for submitting Monthly Reflections as well as four Periodic Reports throughout their term of service.
- Monthly Reflections include narratives on the successes and challenges of service, Professional Development updates, feedback for the Alliance, and leave time used. Monthly Reflections are due on the final day of every month.
- Periodic Reports share specific details of a VISTA’s activities as they relate to their VISTA Assignment Description (VAD). Periodic Reports show the work the VISTA Member has done in reaching their Host Site’s Capacity Building and Anti-Poverty goals. Periodic Reports are due on a quarterly basis, and a final end of year supplement report is due on the final day of service.
Requesting Professional Development Funds
Each VISTA member serving with Minnesota Alliance With Youth has $100 allocated toward their professional development. VISTAs may use this money for fees associated with approved professional development or educational opportunities related to their VISTA project or post-service. All requests for reimbursement are subject to the approval of the Alliance VISTA Program Manager and VISTA Leader.
Once an appropriate professional development opportunity is identified, the VISTA should:
- E-mail the Alliance VISTA Leader with details (brochure, webpage, etc.) and the signed PD request form and await approval.
- Once approved, register for the event and indicate that a check will be sent by the Minnesota Alliance With Youth.
- Send a copy of the paper registration form or print off the on-line registration form and send it to the VISTA Leader.
After the VISTA Leader has received a copy of your registration, the Minnesota Alliance With Youth will submit a check for the costs and send payment directly to the training’s sponsoring organization.
Outside Employment and Schooling
VISTAs may hold outside employment while serving. However, VISTAs must obtain approval from their supervisor for their outside employment. Outside employment may not conflict with a VISTA’s service or service hours. If you choose to hold outside employment, you must complete this form and return it to your VISTA Leader. Full Outside Employment Policy.
VISTAs may be enrolled in courses part time as long as their studies do not interfere with their VISTA responsibilities. VISTAs and supervisors will need to determine whether or not the courses will detract from their commitment to the VISTA project.
If they were enrolled in a course before they became a VISTA, it is still important to discuss their study plan right away and make sure that the course will not interfere with the project.
If courses interfere with VISTA responsibilities, they should discuss this with their supervisor. If they cannot come to a joint decision on how to make the VISTA project their focus, their supervisor may contact the state office.
- VISTA Reporting and Evaluation
- VISTA Vocab