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 Network)

  • VISTA Project Sponsor Supervisor - Gary Lambert

  • OCCN VISTA Leader - Robb Ebright
  • VISTA Site - CTC at which the VISTA is physically located

  • 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 grant.

  • 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 deposit.

    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.

    VISTA Policies
    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 is preferred.

    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 Handbook.

    Site Requirements
    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 this website.

    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:

    Gary Lambert
    OCCN Executive Director
    274 E. First Ave.
    Columbus OH 43201-3673
    Phone#: (614) 644-6932
    Fax#: (614) 728-3521

    Robert Ebright
    OCCN VISTA Leader
    274 E. First Ave.
    Columbus OH 43201-3673
    Phone#: (614) 387-2601
    Fax#: (614) 728-3521