OCCN VISTA Program Description
Definitions of Terms
- VISTA Volunteer - individual who signs a contract
to volunteer on a paid basis for one year
- VISTA Project Sponsor - OCCN (Ohio Community Computing
- VISTA Project Sponsor Supervisor - Gary Lambert
- OCCN VISTA Leader - Robb Ebright
- VISTA Site - CTC at which the VISTA is physically
- VISTA Site Supervisor - an individual the VISTA Site
designates as being responsible for the VISTA
- CNCS (Corporation for National and Community Service)
- the federal agency through which OCCN has its VISTA
Philosophy & Assignment
The VISTA program's mission is to "increase the capacity
of low-income people to improve the conditions of their
own lives." VISTA Volunteers will serve others and support
community residents and organizations to build their capacity
to respond to problems in the community. To volunteer
with VISTA is a commitment to national and community service.
It is not paid employment.
The Ohio Community Computing Center Network's vision is
a society in which everyone has equal opportunity to gain
access to computer and network technology for life-long
learning and personal and community empowerment. OCCN
VISTAs are assigned to OCCN Affiliate Member Community
Technology Centers (CTCs). The VISTA and the CTC Site
Supervisor create a work plan of goals and activities
for the VISTA such as recruiting volunteers, teaching
training courses to volunteer trainers, creating new programs,
applying for grant funds, and publicizing Center programs.
VISTAs may request a specific CTC or ask to be placed
within a specific geographic area.
VISTAs sign a one-year full-time contract to work with
an OCCN CTC. VISTAs may request a renewal of their contract
(resulting in up to 2 years of service).
When an individual applies to be a VISTA, three organizations
must approve their application, the Project Site (the
CTC), the Project Sponsor (OCCN) and the Corporation for
National Service (CNS).
VISTAs are expected to live at the same level of poverty
as the people with whom they will be working. Currently,
the gross monthly subsistence allowance is $833 in rural
Ohio areas and $865 in urban Ohio areas. OCCN VISTAs receive
their bi-weekly living allowance from OCCN through direct
Health insurance benefits are provided for the VISTA only.
During the PSO, the VISTA must choose either the post-service
stipend of $1200 (accrued at the rate of $100 per month)
or a $4,725 educational award. The educational award can
be used for student loans or future tuition. Student loans
are the responsibility of the individual VISTA although
CNS will process requests for deferment or forbearance
that may be possible as a result of service.
Ten days of personal leave and ten days of medical leave
are earned during the year of service. Each can be utilized
with the approval of the sponsor.
VISTAs are eligible to enroll in group life insurance
for which a bi-weekly premium of $2.07 is deducted from
the subsistence allowance.
VISTAs are also eligible for child care benefits which
require having a child under the age of 13 in care, meeting
an income threshold, needing child care assistance to
complete the VISTA assignment and having a financial liability
to pay necessary child-care expenses.
The monthly stipend will not affect a VISTA's federal
benefits (such as a housing subsidy, food stamps, or child
care assistance) as long as the individual was receiving
the benefits before he/she became a VISTA. VISTAs can
request a letter with this information from the CNCS State
Office (Betsy Mincey).
All potential VISTAs attend a Pre-Service Orientation
(PSO) prior to beginning service. The PSO is held in Chicago
for three days. CNS covers travel, hotel, and meal costs.
On the 3rd day, the potential VISTA is sworn in and the
year long VISTA commitment begins the next day.
VISTAs must be able to travel to the PSO in Chicago and
up to three other trainings during the year of service.
At most, VISTAs could be away from home up to five days
at a time for training travel.
A VISTA is a full-time, community service volunteer and
not an employee of the VISTA sponsor or of the Corporation
for National and Community Service (CNCS), except for
the purposes of the Hatch Act (which prohibits partisan
political activities while identified as a VISTA) and
the Federal Employees Compensation Act (FECA, which provides
Worker's Compensation if an injury is the direct result
of service). The living allowance and education award
are both subject to federal income tax (and state, if
applicable). FICA (Social Security withholding) will be
applicable only if the $100 per month end of service cash
stipend is selected instead of the education award.
VISTAs may not receive other monetary compensation for
their services. Since the VISTA is not an employee, no
unemployment compensation will be paid during or upon
completion of service from the sponsor.
The term of service is one year and requires a full-time
commitment. A full-time commitment is defined by Congress
as 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, which means the VISTA
must be available at all times, without regard to regular
working hours. OCCN VISTAs are required to work 40 hours
per week. A VISTA cannot hold a full or part-time job
in addition to their service. Absence from the project's
service area requires the approval of the VISTA Supervisor.
Full or part-time enrollment in school is prohibited except:
1) taking one course which is directly related to the
VISTA assignment or part of a career development plan;
or 2) to retain eligibility for a Pell Grant. Approval
by CNS is required before enrollment in any type of formal
training that may result in absence from the assignment.
VISTAs must be over age 18, and some college education
By law, VISTAs are prohibited from involvement in partisan
or nonpartisan election activities, in voter registration
activities, and in providing transportation to the polls
in their capacity as a VISTA. VISTAs retain their rights
as private citizens, but as a VISTA, they may not engage
in political activities. Current policy also prohibits
VISTAs from engaging in any religious activity as part
of their duties. Other policies are outlined in the AmeriCorps*VISTA
All OCCN Affiliate Community Technology Centers are eligible
to be an OCCN VISTA Site. Sites must designate a Site
Supervisor whose duties include creating the VISTA's work
plan (in coordination with the VISTA), overseeing the
VISTA, providing the VISTA with staff development opportunities,
evaluating the VISTA quarterly and submitting all required
paperwork to the VISTA Leader (Robb Ebright) Site
Supervisor must attend a VISTA Supervisor Training prior
assuming site supervisor responsibilities. Sites must
provide a work space for the VISTA. Sites are also responsible
for VISTA recruitment.
CTCs who would like to become an affiliate member of OCCN
can find more information in the Membership section of
Additional information about AmeriCorps*VISTA (including
the VISTA application) is available at http://www.americorps.org.
For additional information on the
OCCN VISTA Program contact:
OCCN Executive Director
274 E. First Ave.
Columbus OH 43201-3673
Phone#: (614) 644-6932
Fax#: (614) 728-3521
OCCN VISTA Leader
274 E. First Ave.
Columbus OH 43201-3673
Phone#: (614) 387-2601
Fax#: (614) 728-3521