|Jurisdiction||Federal government of the United States|
AmeriCorps VISTA is a national service program designed to alleviate poverty. President John F. Kennedy originated the idea for VISTA, which was founded as Volunteers in Service to America in 1965, and incorporated into the AmeriCorps network of programs in 1993. VISTA is an acronym for Volunteers in Service to America.
On March 11, 2018, President Donald Trump sent his official Fiscal Year 2020 (FY 2020) Budget request to Congress. As outlined in his previous fiscal year budgets, this budget proposes the elimination of the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) in FY 2020. It provides funding for an orderly shutdown, including all CNCS programs, such as Senior Corps and AmeriCorps (which includes VISTA and NCCC). In FY 2019, VISTA was funded at its FY 2017 and FY 2018 levels of $92,364,000 while AmeriCorps (not NCCC) and Senior Corps received increases in their funding levels.
VISTA is an anti-poverty program created by Lyndon Johnson's Economic Opportunity Act of 1964 as the domestic version of the Peace Corps. Initially, the program increased employment opportunities for conscientious people who felt they could contribute tangibly to the War on Poverty. Volunteers served in communities throughout the U.S., focusing on enriching educational programs and vocational training for the nation's underprivileged classes.
As defined under the Domestic Volunteer Service Act (DVSA) of 1973, VISTA's legislative purpose is to supplement efforts to fight poverty in low-income communities by engaging Americans from all walks of life in a year of full-time service. VISTA members support the program's purpose through three primary objectives: 1) encouraging volunteer service at the local level, 2) generating the commitment of private sector resources, and 3) strengthening local agencies and organizations that serve low-income communities. There are approximately 5,000 VISTA members serving in over 900 projects throughout the nation.
During the Clinton Administration, VISTA was brought under the newly created AmeriCorps program, a division of the Corporation for National and Community Service, and was renamed "AmeriCorps*VISTA". VISTA members sign up with a host agency for a full-time term of service – 365 days. In return for their service, members are provided with orientation and training, a living stipend calculated at no less than 105% of the poverty line, settling in and transportation costs, child care benefits, and a basic health care plan. Upon completion of their one-year term, VISTA members have the option of receiving a cash award or the Segal AmeriCorps Education Award. There is also the option for individuals to serve as Summer Associates for terms of 8, 9 or 10 weeks alongside full-time VISTA members for a reduced AmeriCorps Education Award.
The first Director of VISTA was Glenn W. Ferguson and there have been many appointed and acting directors since then. Meg Ansara currently serves as the Director for AmeriCorps VISTA.
|Director||Service Dates||Appointed by||Notes|
|1||Glenn W. Ferguson||1964 – ?||Johnson|
|Padraic Kennedy||? – 1966||acting director|
|Padraic Kennedy||1968–1970||acting director|
|C.R. Lane||1970||acting director|
|3||Carol Khosrovi||1970 – ?||Nixon|
|4||Frank E. Williams||? – 1975 – ?|
|6||James H. Burnley IV||1981–1982||Reagan|
|7||Jane A. Kenny||1986–1989||Director|
|Diana London||1989 – ?||Acting Director|
|8||James Scheibel||1993 –||Clinton|
|11||Eileen Conoboy||2017–||Trump||Acting Director|
|Desiree Tucker-Sorini||? –2021|
Created by the National and Community Service Trust Act of 1993, the Corporation for National and Community Service Office of Inspector General (OIG) conducts and supervises independent and objective audits and investigations of Corporation programs and operations. Based on the results of these audits, reviews, and investigations, the OIG recommends policies to promote economy and efficiency and prevent and detect fraud and abuse in the Corporation's programs and operations.
Most AmeriCorps VISTA members are required by federal law to take the same oath that federal employees take:
I, (name), do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. [So help me God.]
In 1963, President John F. Kennedy envisioned a national service corps “to help provide urgently needed services in urban and rural poverty areas.” Less than two years later, as part of President Lyndon B. Johnson’s “War on Poverty,” President Kennedy’s dream was realized when President and First Lady [Lady] Bird Johnson welcomed the first group of 20 VISTA volunteers.