Siena Americorps VISTA
Roughly 1.5 million people live in the Capital District of New York State, many of them in the inner cities of Albany, Troy, and Schenectady. Annually, the Center for Academic Community Engagement (ACE) at Siena College, selects 30 individuals from across the country to serve with nonprofits who are working to address socio-economic challenges in the region; these challenges include gaps in education, healthcare, housing, criminal justice, and economic development. Our AmeriCorps VISTAs fight poverty by working alongside community members to build capacity and create sustainable, local solutions.
AmeriCorps VISTA is a 12-month commitment to 40 hours per week of service at a nonprofit organization in the Capital District of New York. Schedules depend on the operating hours of sites, although most organizations follow the conventional business hours of Monday-Friday, 9am-5pm. As a nonprofit organization, VISTA sites are likely to ask members to work the occasional fundraiser on an evening or weekend. In addition, the Siena VISTA program will occasionally ask members to participate in various on campus events throughout the year, including the Engage for Change conference and Mayor's Day of Service, which ultimately enriches participants' experience as a VISTA. These events count towards VISTA's working hours and allow them to take flex time at a later date for any time exceeding their 40 hour work week.
What VISTAs Do
What makes AmeriCorps VISTA unique among other service-oriented programs is its focus on capacity building projects through indirect service. To explain what indirect service looks like, we often use the example of a soup kitchen. While direct volunteers are greeting and serving guests, it is the indirect volunteers who are doing the behind the scenes work work to make sure that everything comes together. In this scenario, indirect service includes recruiting the volunteers needed to run the event, coordinating the food donations, reaching out to members of the community to notify them when and where the meal will be served, etc. Indirect service is equally as important as direct service for nonprofit organizations to function successfully and helps VISTAs to develop transferable skills that can be utilized throughout their career.
We have a cohort of VISTAs dispersed throughout the cities of Albany, Troy, and Schenectady working on different capacity building projects at a variety of nonprofit organizations. These projects may be in one of four categories; resource development, volunteer management, program development, and community outreach. After an applicant is accepted to the program, they are given a specific project description.
The Siena College Center for Academic Community Engagement develops partnerships with nonprofit organizations in the Capital District where undergraduate students and postgraduate VISTAs serve. Our partners vary each year, but a list of our current sites can be found here. Each of our VISTA sites aligns to AmeriCorps' mission to fight and alleviate poverty. We value the work that these organizations do and our partnerships with them. All applicants will be given the opportunity to choose which organization to interview with based on their interests and experience.
events and outings
Each month the VISTAs on the Social and Self Care Committee organize affordable group activities for all VISTA members to partake in. Some activities VISTAs have arranged in the past include game night, ice skating, apple picking, bowling, and more! This allows member camaraderie to grow and provides a space for VISTAs to support and bond with one another.
Siena VISTAs also participate in annual events hosted by the Center for Academic Community Engagement. These events include:
- MLK Day of Service (January)
- AmeriCorps National Service Recognition Day/Mayor's Day of Service (April)
- Engage for Change Conference (May)
- September 11th National Day of Service and Remembrance (September)