Monday, May 07, 2007

"AmeriCorps Sucks" "I hate AmeriCorps"

Let me guess.

You're "storming".

See, there's five stages in your AmeriCorps year - Forming, Storming, Norming, Performing, and Adjourning. This is from a guy called Bruce Tuckman who originally wrote it to have to do with team building - and every AmeriCorps member is part of at least one team.

It's really easy to get stuck at "storming". Trust me. I've been there. Your living stipend sucks, you spend all your time doing inane things when you really signed up to change the world, and your site supervisor/program director thinks you're a moron (or vice versa). The little things are really starting to get you down, and you're thinking about quitting.

Don't quit. You want that education stipend, and you won't get it if you quit. You also won't get the chance to challenge yourself, push your own boundaries, and really discover what you can do. Frustrated? Vent. Call your program director and tell them what's on your mind. Start your own blog. Vent to me here - I'd love to hear your frustrations. What you're feeling is completely normal and part of the process.

I'm telling you from my perspective as a second-year member - it's worth it. Stick it out. If you've quit everything else you've ever tried, stick it out. If you're so broke you're looking for coins in the couch cushions to buy a loaf of bread, stick it out. You CAN get through - and you WILL be proud of yourself. You deserve it. See your year through.


ETA (4/8/09) Some of the comments have expressed a desire for a forum. 

293 comments:

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Anonymous said...

I continue to be increasingly astounded and frustrated, to put it mildly, by this nightmarish situation that I have found myself in throughout my now 10-month experience as an AmeriCorps member. With approximately two months left to go, I do not know if/how I will make it through this. The problem is this: I have no responsibilities except to sit stationary at a desk for 8 hours a day, with absolutely nothing to do for about 95% of the time. Occasionally I have to answer the office phone as if I am a secretary without pay, or once in a blue moon I am assigned actual "work" in the form of menial data entry and such, which I typically can complete in several hours at most. All the while, my desk is located in a small, one-room office with no personal space, situated about five feet away from both the director/supervisor and some other volunteer who is not affiliated with AmeriCorps. They can all see that I have no work to do and can probably easily see that I am not happy (to put it politely), but they just don't seem to care about this. This pretty much describes the office environment. All the while, I am getting paid below minimum wage, which I can't complain about because this I knew before enrolling in this program. The thing that bothers me here is that this situation in many ways feels worse than being completely unemployed and living at home with my parents, which is where it appears I will end up again soon.

Anonymous said...

HELP!

Anonymous said...

Hi everyone, interesting blog. I need urgent advice. I am a licenced Physician assitant and one way we were told to clear off college loan was serving one year in AC. Just wanted to know, is it worth it?

Heather said...

Previous anon, that's wildly inaccurate. You'd only get $4500 in education awards for that year.

The program does exist, but it's not a AmeriCorps program. I don't recall the name, but it's a program that will forgive your loans/pay your loans in exchange for you working a length of time at a Federally Qualified Health Center. National Health Service Corps, I think is the name, but don't quote me. Opportunities exist all over the country but I have no idea how you'd go about applying for that. Dental hygenists can apply for the program, too.

Anonymous said...

I am close to finishing my second term of Americorps. I have loved it and found it to be an extremely rewarding and challenging experience. I too have experienced a lot of the difficulties mentioned on this blog. But I managed to persevere and work through them.

I can't help but feel that many of those making comments on this blog were simply not cut out for this type of work. Site placement matters a lot, but so does attitude, resolve, and the ability to take a bad situation and either make it better or learn something valuable from it. Or both.

I would recommend anyone who is committed to serving their community and challenging themselves to grow as a person to join AmeriCorps. For those who do it just for the money or the ED award- that won't be enough of a reason to stay on.

Anonymous said...

Just wanted a place to rant and came across this. I just graduated from college and moved 1,500 miles away from my home state for a VISTA position. I have only been here since 8/20 and am already planning on putting in my two week's notice next Monday. I sit at a computer for eight hours a day and am occasionally given a very menial task to complete. The other day, I had to go about a neighborhood and distribute about 200 fliers. The organization I work for seems to get a lot of grant money but doesn't always spend it on the most worthwhile things. I live alone in a low-income housing complex because it's all I could afford, and I'm absolutely miserable there. It is infested with cockroaches but I had no choice but to move in! This has been a huge learning experience for me, but I think it needs to end. Maybe VISTA programs are better in some places, but this has been a bust.

Anonymous said...

This situation has become so unbelievably horrible that I simply am at a complete loss as to what to do. Here is how my average day goes:

I awake in the morning at 6:15am to a dark, crummy apartment, trying my best to stealthfully avoid my extraordinarily odd, creepy roommate. I am typically out the door by 7am. I walk several blocks down the street, covering my ears to dampen the deafening, machine gun fire-like sound of the subway rumbling overhead, to enter a crowded, smelly subway to begin my hour + commute to downtown Manhattan, during the course of which I must transfer subway lines twice. Upon exiting the subway and navigating my way through a sea of disgruntled sidewalk passengers, I finally come upon the office of the non-profit organization that I am volunteering my time for through a national, government run program called “AmeriCorps”. The time is 8am.

I enter the one-room office and take a seat at my desk. I check my email, “oh, what a surprise, no email again”. As usual, there is nothing that needs to be done, so I check my Facebook page, where I see dozens of my so-called “friends”, most of whom I have met a total of one time in my entire life, posting annoying comments or pictures of themselves wearing ray ban sunglasses or eating sushi. I then continue to sit, I get something to eat, then continue to sit again. Unable to remain strong, I call my mother and complain to her for a good 15 minutes, afterwards feeling guilty about having done so again. I then sit some more. The time is 9am.

After about an hour of sitting some more, the directors and other volunteer arrive, and we all sit there for seven hours, occasionally fielding phone calls from deranged clients or sales people, and maybe inputting a few names into a database, until another day is done and wasted. The time is 5pm, and I am amazed at my body’s ability to remain stationary at a desk for such a long period of time without becoming completely physically numb, although mentally and emotionally I feel exhausted and defeated.

I then proceed to walk to the subway station, once again dodging disgruntled sidewalk passengers along the way. I enter the crowded subway (crowded, as in, packed shoulder to shoulder like sardines) and begin my hour+ commute back to my crummy, dark, messy apartment, praying that my extraordinarily weird, creepy, messy, and annoying roommate will not be present so I can hopefully go to the gym, shower, and go to bed

Anonymous said...

I'm a current Americorps VISTA and I am hating my year. My position is a huge waste of time. I have hardly anything to and what I do is meaningless. Americorps really is a huge waste of money. I hope the government cuts it.

Anonymous said...

I hate Americorps. I feel like I will kill myself if I don't find another alternative soon.

I moved to Houston from Ohio to be a marketing coordinator and community liaison for a college persistence/access program. I was so excited because I had the experience and expertise. I went to PSO and was even more motivated to get to work. All this ended on day 1 at my site. I found out that the people that hired me were fired shortly after I accepted the position. I was demoted to an administrative assistant after a month at the site. I scoffed at the job change but I decided to stay because I like the other VISTAs and Americorps members. But on the day I was to start the new job, I was told not to come back because I was not a "good fit" How the hell am I not a good fit to be an administrative assistant? They just didn't like me because I was continuously asking questions about the chain of command and when I was start doing the job that I had moved across the country, gave away a lot of my possessions, and sacrificed so much for. So I was given 2 weeks by CNCS to find another site.

I interviewed with two places and was offered the job of a grant writer at a non profit run by a church. When I interviewed, the executive director told me the after school program was thriving, they just needed funding to keep it going. I was excited once again to go in and help this organization. When I started working, the only other full time staff person quit and didn't tell me anything. I have been asked to write grants using dated information about the organization and budgets containing made up numbers. He merely reads over the grants and does not provide feedback or input. The after school program only has 10 children and they only come here because they attend church here. On top of that, I supervise parolees in the church's restitution program. Some of them have been rude and scary. I have been asked to watch children, cook meals, and talk to random people who come in off the streets. The executive director is a pastor, he has asked me to come to church several times and questions me about my sexuality. I don't know how this organization received the Americorps program. They know nothing about how a nonprofit works and the impact is minimal. The pastor just hired another VISTA. She came to the interview with her newborn baby and her application was full of spelling grammatical errors. So now I have to babysit another incompetent person. I am frustrated. This was the worst decision I ever made in my entire life and I regret this whole process. I was tricked and duped into moving halfway across the country for a job that does not even exist anymore. Then, I was fired for no reason. Now I'm very unhappy and stuck at this organization.

I am going to start applying for jobs but since I have not finished my thesis, I can not apply for jobs on my level just yet. I am only staying at this site because I have no other options. I rely on the measly $414 we get every 2 weeks but I have had to get several cash advances to pay basic bills.

The only redeeming factor about this program is the prescription benefits. I am a diabetic and about $2,000 worth of test strips and insulin have been shipped directly to my house at no charge. That's what keeps me in this program but if I find another job, I am out of here.

I chose the educational award but it will be a drop in the bucket for my loans so I don't see any reason to really stay and complete my term of service.

For all of you stuck, I feel your pain!!! I wouldn't mind if Americorps was cut. This program is garbage.

Anonymous said...

What can I say about AmeriCorps that hasn't been said? 7 more months of this nightmare! I relocated to a major city shortly after graduating to serve as a VISTA. During the interview process, the site supervisor mislead me into thinking I would be developing programs, initiating projects, and doing great things. Instead, I'm stuck in an office 8 hours/day doing absolutely nothing, while listening to constant verbal abuse from staff members. I mistakingly thought that sacrificing my savings and time for this position would be a great investment, and an opportunity to help individuals in need.

I'm not given any direction, my supervisor is absolutely terrible, and the organization is completely mismanaged. I've openly voiced my concerns to staff members on numerous occasions, but no one takes me seriously.

Advice/Observations for those considering AmeriCorps-

* Don't apply for the program expecting the organization to offer you a full-time position once the one-year term ends. This almost never happens. They'll use you for a year and spit you out. I can almost guarantee it.

*Make sure the organization sends you a VAD BEFORE accepting the position. I was sent a VAD (position details) after everything was finalized. It was 3 sentences - I'm not sure who in the state office approved it.

* Don't relocate long distances for these positions or you'll end up stuck there( like me!) if things don't go well.

Anonymous said...

I'm a Promise Fellow serving in Minensota. The Alliance for Youth pushes an ethically questionable program of invasive student tracking which violates state laws regarding student privacy. Since no one is an employee, they have to work some tricky legal loops in order to bully schools into accessing private data in order to "intervene for the sake of at risk youth" Get a job anywhere-scrubbing floors, tending bar, ANYTHING. This is a huge burden for little money and you have to put up with a lot of bullshit from people who are little more than HR drones. I'm not a republican, but I am rooting for them to gut this program.

Anonymous said...

Yeah so I've been applying to programs with Americorps so far and I either haven't heard back or have been rejected. At this point, I'm starting to think that Americorps is just a bunch of assholes.

BlaqnBlu said...

I am currently 4.5 months into my service year and I am actually enjoying what I do. I serve in the school system with pre-k classes. I give teachers release time so they can go to class (even if that class is online...but whatever). I will say the service I did in college with NC ACTS was a joke but I'm getting some pretty good assistant teaching experience and they are paying for the education class I'm taking. I get to interact with 3-5 year olds on a daily basis and see how they learn and grow. it's pretty cool. Yes the stipend is laughable but it is do-able. After all, not one AmeriCorps program director promised candidates a fat paycheck.

Anonymous said...

Americorps doesn't give a shit about you after they've gotten the work out of you. Semester after semester....I tried using my education award...and either the college or Americorps would screw-up. My entire $9450 was wasted and I ended up with the bills coming out of my own pockets. Fuck you Americorp. I will get my revenge!!!

Heather said...

Previous anon, I ended up taking out loans and then paying them off right away, it was easier and far less complicated than trying to get the Foundation for National Service and my college to work with each other. Paying off your student loans at my.americorps.gov using the online system is quick and painless so long as you have your paperwork available.

Anonymous said...

please can someone with experience in these horrible americorps situations call me?! my name is Sundance and I work in Reno, NV and i don't know what to do 775-223-7412

STAY AWAY FROM AMERICORPS VISTA!!!!!

Anonymous said...

Hello all, I have read every post here and I am supposed to leave tomorrow for PSO training and I feel totally lost and discouraged. I have not started yet and I am already exhausted. I feel like I have been pushed and pulled and almost bullied. I have been having trouble just signing up. It all started with my maiden name vs my married name. I faxed my ss card and driver's license and it was lost for over 20 days. Then my issue was sent to another office in Houston. I was asked again to fax the info then I got a call the same day saying they had finally found the original fax. They told me it was not enough info. My ss card has my maiden name, my driver's license has my maiden name and married name. They proceeded to ask me for my marriage license. I hesitated to send that but told them that would be it and if they could not solve this issue, I was done. I faxed my marriage certificate and low and behold they asked me for my birth certificate. I told them flat out that if they could not figure out who I was with those important vital pieces of personal info, I was done. I finally got an e-mail stating the name correction was complete on Feb 7th.

Now, Feb. 11th day before I leave, I e-mailed my regional contact to make sure all was well. She said she was not told anything and that I should bring my birth certificate to the PSO. I forwarded her the e-mail I received and she still said that this confirmed nothing. At this point I was livid, I wrote a response to her e-mail and while I was doing that apparently, she decided to verify the info I sent her and sent me multiple e-mails just to finally confirm what I told her in the first place.

So here I am at 2:32 am typing this with no bags packed, no flight ticket printed with a 11:15am flight today that I am not prepared for. I am at a complete loss. I have no idea what I am doing. I feel like I am on a runaway train with miles of track missing and I need to jump but I am hesitating for reasons unknown to myself. I feel guilty for wanting to jump. I already feel like a failure. I should not feel this way. Why is this happening and how do I stop it? Are these signs of more strain to come? If anyone reads this, I really need some help and guidance. Thank you for listening. FYI, this process has been going on since December 17, 2011. Sigh.....

Anonymous said...

Correction, I meant december 17, 2012.

Anonymous said...

HI There. I have read every comment on this forum and honestly I am mortified. I also read the entire americorps manual. I leave for my PSO in a few weeks and I honestly am thinking about not continuing. The problem is I really like the organization I have been paired with and since I am relocating to a major city, I was suprised when I found out my total living allowance was around 900 after taxes. I am not able to find a safe apartment or a non-creepy roommate. Thoughts? Advice? Suggestions? I am thinking of asking my organization to subsidize the rent if they want to keep me. I want to serve, but I also don't want to be stabbed or raped (previous experiences of two former VISTAS listed on this site). Help advise anyone?! I'm so confused right now. Should I stay or should I go.

Anonymous said...

I'm three months in and totally miserable. The education stipend is attractive but my stress level is so high, I don't think I will make it to the end. Great for college students but for others not so great. Very low wages, and lots of work. Plus the journaling, reports, presentations that you have to do and work projects. They tell you they will put you up in a hotel for training and then you end up on a church floor due to "budget cuts". It hasn't been a good experience for me and I regret my decision.

Anonymous said...

What a bunch of whiney little brats you guys are.. What, did you think- that while SERVING time with a not-for-profit organization they'd swoop you up to solve all your lifes problems, put you up in a nice condo and take you shopping on sunset blvd like pretty woman?!? Get a grip- it's ONE YEAR of your life, a relatively miniscule blip of time with which you can make as much or as little a difference in the world around you as YOU CHOOSE. Don't feel like the tasks you've been assigned to are enough? Take some initiative, get off your asses, and DO SOMETHING to change it.

Anonymous said...

To the previous anonymous comment, you are being a total brat yourself but not respecting how people are feeling during their experiences. Volunteering is one thing but clearly Americorp needs to be revamped or done away with and I sincerely hope they lose funding to prevent further generations of good-hearted people from becoming jaded. You are entitled to your opinion, but at the very least be an adult and respect the feelings of others.

Anonymous said...

While I understand and can empathize with the challenges that serving for Americorps brings up- I actually read the entire agreement before I signed up- something any intellegent person would do before making such a committment.. Namely, the Domestic Volunteer Service Act says that volunteers will make a full-time commitment towards alleviating poverty, which means that volunteers are asked to live with and at the level of the people they're serving. And it really isn't that hard to do, so long as you're not use to being waited on hand and foot. Suck it up, make it work like thousands of us do. You're adults.

Sarah Summers said...

I stumbled upon this by accident... I've done two years of Americorps (both state and national, two different programs) and had an overall good experience.

My first year, at the ripe age of 18, I did a program called City Year tutoring low income kids in Chicago. The second year was after I had graduated college and I had a great experience being placed at a well known environmental organization where I taught classes and developed curriculum as well as did a lot of low level grunt work like feeding animals or very occasionally (a few times during the year) preparing mailings if it was crunch time and someone needed help with it. There were some frustrations, but no more than there are in any other job I've had.

Basically, what I'm trying to say is that you need to be engaged in the application and selection process and then in your year-- talk to potential sites, make sure they're not morons and don't view you as their new coffee-fetcher, talk to the site supervisor and get a feel for whether they are competent, ask for the names of past members and see how they felt about their experience- be smart about it. Make sure your site isn't a dud. Then, make sure you're willing to work for under minimum wage and that you're capable of living under the poverty line. If you're not, no judgement, but don't join Americorps and then realize that you can't live on the stipend afterward. Plan out your budget. Then, make the most of your year- this is the tricky part, but if you've done your research beforehand you should have a site that is supportive and helpful.

I wanted to say a little about my experience so that people who were thinking about AmeriCorps could get a more balanced view of the program... I think this has become the place that people find when they want to vent and google 'Americorps sucks' and while their experiences are valid, people should realize that this page is attracting people who have had very negative experiences... Most of the people I know who have done AC (which is probably several hundred in all different programs) have had an overall positive experience, with some people having a negative experience either because their site sucks or, honestly, because they aren't good at their jobs or have unrealistic expectations. It's a mixed bag, there are sites that are a mess, make sure yours isn't before you get there.

Anonymous said...

To the last couple posters:

I began my AmeriCorps term last June, while I was fresh out of college. Unfortunetly, I've had a miserable experience because my site is dysfunctional and disorganized.

- I did not have unrealistic expectations, and did not expect to change the world. Simply, I wanted to be treated with respect and dignity, at the very least. This isn't an unrealistic expectation.

- Upon arriving to my host site, in a new city, I was greeted by the preceding VISTA, who had one month left of her term with "I've been assigned a task..for once. What a surprise." This girl would openly talk about her misery and tourment at this organization, not in secrecy, but in front of the director/my supervisor, who didn't seem to care. I disregarded her remarks and dismissed her as a bitter VISTA, thinking she wasn't motivated.

Ironically, almost one year later, I've become her. I'm miserable, openly air my concerns and criticsms to the deaf ears of staff, who didn't seem to care how miserable I am. To their faces, I've said "This was the worst experience of my life. You didn't supervise me, or give me any work to d, and to top it off, you've verbally abused me. Also, you've all treated me like garbage." Those were my EXACT words. What was their response you ask? Nothing. They did not react or care. As I did a bit of digging, I found that two of this organization's former VISTAs had complete mental breakdowns, one of which disappeared for a week and had to be counseled back to the office.

My VAD did not lay out a single project, every project I proposed was rejected even when guidelines were followed.

Before arriving to this city for AmeriCorps, I had 4 stellar letters of recommendation from former supervisors. It's not my fault, some organizations are dysfunctional.

My complaints aren't about money, the work, or the community I serve - they're about a lack of dignity and respect. The corporate/state offices don't do a good job of screening organizations. They waste taxpayer dollars on some of the least sustainable and mundane project imaginable. Don't you dare tell me that I'm not qualified or I had unrealitic expectations.

And to the last poster-

Of course those who post here have had negative experiences, that's the entire point of this blog, or at least what's become of it. It's to let other miserable VISTAs know that they're not alone. There are others struggling. You can't sugar coat the shortcomings of this program while making those of us who poured our heart and soul into it, only to be crushed by bad placements feel like garbage. Most of us have are not wrong. Get over yourself. We're entitled to our opinions.

Oh, and it's not like I'm saying these things behind my placements back. I've actually said all these things to their faces. They don't care. I signed a lease, and couldn't break it. Also, I would have to explain the gap on my resume if I quit. That's basically the only reason I stayed.

Anonymous said...

"read the entire agreement before I signed up- something any intellegent person would do before making such a committment."

You misspelled "intelligent" and "commitment". Way to go, Mr./Ms. Smarty Pants. I can tell you're a real asset to the program, or "essit", as you'd probably spell it. If you took the time to actually read the complaints listed on this blog, you would quickly realize that most don't address the stipend or the contract terms.

Anonymous said...

I am currently serving as an AmeriCorps member. I have about 12 weeks left and I could not be more excited to reach the end. Based on the previous posts I will not be adding anything new or surprising; I just need to vent.

My AmeriCorps experience has also been terrible. The program "director" has no idea what our grant entails, nor does she have the time to answer our questions or provide us with info regarding our responsibilities or capabilities. We began the program as 4 blind mice. One member was sent out to the middle of nowhere to live in poverty and alone with no support from the main office. The rest of us were set up in cubicles with no idea what our job descriptions were. After months of trying to be proactive and fill the void ourselves with no acknowledgement or sense of pride, we lost the energy to try. Needless to say, none of us developed professionally or personally. If anything, all we gained was abundant stress and a severe lack of motivation to continue in nonprofit work.

Let's be honest, I've lost the patience I had and have a very hard time caring about anything anymore. We all feel that we got shafted in several ways. With no support, no money, and no direction it's a wonder we are all completing our term.

Side note: The anonymity of all these posts is ridiculously ironic... AmeriCorps: No voice, no name.

Anonymous said...

This program was one of the worst environments I have ever had the misfortune of enduring. If you're a person who wants to submit to what an institution demands you "are", then join this program. It breeds collectivist behavior at the expense of your individuality. Based on high-pressure tactics that are extremely aggravating and devious. Where do I even start? Well, for 1. the program lies by omission regarding how it actually operates in terms of campus life. It EXPLICITLY does not state that it's like a military regime in it's guidebook. 2. The unit leader was extremely dishonest, hypocritical, self-serving, & an overall little-hitler who believes who he is judge, jury & executioner. He spreads fear, terror, & ignorance across the land. A person who I am thoroughly disgusted with who doesn't recognize the humanity of other people around him. As far as i'm concerned, i'm just another "number" and "unit" to folks like him and that program. Not a person with their own feelings, practices & beliefs of their own. He thought it was funny to talk really slowly and waste 8 hours of time in a classroom where he belabored us constantly with "it's not about you, it's about the community" in circles. He was extremely abrasive as well and denied me all of the roles that I wanted while in the program. One of the worst folks I have ever EVER had to interact with. He also helped screw me over. Biased and dishonest. NOT objective, candid or pursuing intellectual honesty. 3. The leadership breeds control-freaks with axes to grind to anyone who they suspect is "out of line". They can get away with this because of the double-standards that exist between "core members" and "leaders". For example, the selective enforcement on the team I had to be with. We had 3 folks causing trouble while the team leader got after me based on false allegations & bad faith in the name of making my time a plight. Utter nonsense. 4. Their "monopoly" on communication is extremely monocultural in the sense of "being normal". My question is: what defines normal? I couldn't speak my mind or be who I am as a person. Left me in a state of despair, fear, & being intimidated to even contradict the leadership. It's basically akin to psychological abuse. The counselor didn't give a damn about what I had to say or even care about me. It seemed like it was all a charade to waste my time and micromanage me based on false impressions of me. 5. Dorm dynamics were a joke. We had a group of folks waking up people at 3 A.M. in the morning as a "prank". It wasn't funny. And staff/team leaders didn't give a fuck to address that. I don't believe these folks are even qualified to practice "law". Seeing as they deny basic human "rights" within a social context. Which is dishonest, because a person ignorant of their own "rights" is likely to be railroaded and set up to fail. 6. The M.O. is inconsistent at the campus I went to. Because of "saying one thing but doing another". For example. Schedules say to be at classroom 101 by 8:30 while team leaders text saying to not be there. We're left in a double-bind of where to be. It's completely bankrupt how the "communication system" is run.

Anonymous said...

5. Dorm dynamics were a joke. We had a group of folks waking up people at 3 A.M. in the morning as a "prank". It wasn't funny. And staff/team leaders didn't give a fuck to address that. I don't believe these folks are even qualified to practice "law". Seeing as they deny basic human "rights" within a social context. Which is dishonest, because a person ignorant of their own "rights" is likely to be railroaded and set up to fail. 6. The M.O. is inconsistent at the campus I went to. Because of "saying one thing but doing another". For example. Schedules say to be at classroom 101 by 8:30 while team leaders text saying to not be there. We're left in a double-bind of where to be. It's completely bankrupt how the "communication system" is run.

7. There was drinking on spike housing. And the team leader didn't care one bit to enforce the rule. Instead, look for a diversion and place blame elsewhere. Which is how I got kicked essentially. I was compared to: mass school shooters, terrorists, & criminals. None of which I think are fundamentally healthy to be targets of.

8. I would recommend going to vocational school instead of a "non-profit program" like americorps. The program is funded by the U.S. government. Which I find to be a travesty. Since we have ideologues and propagandists who are inexorable in their philosophies that will target you based on your opinions and use anything to screw you over. 9. CTI was an overall waste of time. Same disinformation items repeated over and over and FUCKING OVER. Thought-terminating and not worthy of food for thought. Became stale after the second day. P.T. was a sham because we're basically dictated what we can and can't do as physical activities because "team leaders say so". Utter nonsense. I don't appreciate the esoteric snobbery towards "core members" in this economic plight. Maybe the folks in power decided to go on a power-trip and snap into little-hitlers because "power" is like a drug to them. Who knows in this world of deception and propaganda... 10. It's an overall travesty compared to programs like: job corps, conservation corps, U.S. forest service etc. If you're looking to actually get a trade(s) in, go to programs like that. If you're someone extremely slavish to a corrupt authority and THAT DESPERATE for an "education award", then go to this program.

In short: americorps is definitely NOT a program for folks who practice critical thinking & operate on a self-pace.

Anonymous said...

Don't even get me started about CTI. It's utter garbage for the following reasons:

1. Slogans are belabored CONSTANTLY. E.g. "It's not about you, it's about the community". For the entire term. It's very stale and will make you drown it out.

2. We're arbitrary sized up by team leaders and unit leaders. Likewise with how the counselor judges us based on their own prejudices, favoritism, & personal biases. It's a question of pigeonholing us based on what a select few want.

3. Unit leaders lecture us CONSTANTLY about "the right thing to do", based on simply reinforcing what the organization demands. Instead of encouraging us to actually listen to what's being said. It's a great way to persuade others with dogmatic morality. Utter garbage when we compare to other work ethics. There are many ways of "doing the right things" that these "leaders" could never understand.

4. Team leaders have axes to grind if they suspect you are "alienating people". They'll make you want to tell them off and quit the program. That's how bullying cultures operate. Unit leaders like the one I had would just laugh it off.

5. Our patience and credulity is taken advantage of. Boring presentations and classroom lectures IS NOT what I signed up for.

Anonymous said...

It's a wonder this program has such a high drop out rate. Communication BLOWS. Leadership is fucking corrupt and dishonest. Pay is that of menial slave labor. The stress and depression from all this infobesity can drive someone up the wall.

My reasons for quitting were as follows:

A. From day 1, this program was extremely disorganized and caused me plenty of stress that was unwarranted. How the hell would a "unit leader" be qualified in law like he claims when he's NOT EVEN CERTIFIED. Dorm had sex, parties, & rude wake ups by core members at night. Core members were extremely rude and antagonistic TO ANYONE who contradicted them.

B. PT measurements for our fitness levels were rather questionable. The fire unit leader vilified me in front of 20+ people for something that was out of my control from a previous meeting. Extremely degrading and unappreciative of my time and labor.

C. I was called "Autistic" by the so-called counselor and team leader I had to deal with. These folks are not qualified to be authority figures. PERIOD.

D. I saw nothing but a bunch of people submitting to a corrupt leadership and drawn out of propaganda in this economic crisis. While forfeiting their *rights* and *entitlements* for the sake of pleasing other folks in power. It was an atrocity and a farce.

E. The team I had to be on caused alot of trouble and stress to each other over petty reasons. Like if someone was having a private conversation, there would be eavesdropping. Privacy is a sham in a fishbowl to say the least.

F. The unit leader I had was extremely controlling and dishonest and did not care to communicate with me. He was rather rude and cared to play both sides against each other. If he was my "boss" in the "real world", i would have quit and told him off and walked away with my dignity and self-respect.

G. "Field day" was something that caused me to have an emotional breakdown. I hated humiliating other folks in americorps just for the sake of "team pride". I couldn't stand knowing that I was contributing to psychological harm of other humans in the world. I tore me apart from the inside.

H. We were NEVER told how much team leaders and staff make when they tell us how much we make. Sounded like a cover-up by staff and team leaders.

I. If you are someone who knows how to take of yourself and you know what you want to do. DO NOT go to americorps. It's a waste of energy, time & your sense of self-worth.

In my opinion, this program should be cut and there should be volunteering at a state level instead of a "select few campuses" for volunteer service.

I would rather enjoy waking up every morning to something I look forward than something that causes a poison that is cynicism towards organizations like this place.

Quit and don't look back. Period.

Anonymous said...

It's a question of being valued, treated like a human with feelings of our own & being treated like a unique person. None of which the campus I was at was capable of understanding or doing.

Walk away.

Anonymous said...

Honor
Respect
Integrity
Loyalty
Intelligence
Honesty

Americorps has NONE.

Anonymous said...

I have PTS (post-traumatic stress) and I was treated like ABSOLUTE SHIT by this organization. Seriously, this program warrants an investigation for it's activities beyond what it says it is to the public.

Anonymous said...

I feel sorry for everyone who felt screwed by this program. Specifically class 19.

Anonymous said...

Americorps reminds me of an insane asylum. Seriously, this reminds me of emotional abuse when we're made to feel afraid to comply with someone's threat. That's an utter shame.

I turn my back to anyone who does such abuse and rationalizes it as "making a point". You can make a point without having to guilt-trip or shame someone. That's just crooked.

Anna said...

I have served three Americorps terms- one three-month term and two six-month terms. All of my terms were served at conservation corps where I built and maintained hiking trails, did forest thinning for wildfire prevention, etc.. I was chainsaw trained and wilderness first aid certified, among many other trainings and learning experiences that I had. Yes, the terms of service I had were underpaid and very intense but to say that the program is a scam or not worth a young person's time is a very broad statement. Those times were some of the best times of my life. My positive experiences came down to the organization, which is a sentiment that a few others have expressed here. In the conservation corps, work expectations and pay are fairly well-defined in the application process. I have recommended Americorps to many of my friends and I feel that my time was well spent. If for nothing more, it is a challenge to young people to know what it's like to be underappreciated, overworked, and underpaid. Welcome to the lives of 75% of Americans, and almost all of the nonprofit sector. And the gap widens as you go further. What does it mean to be underpaid and overworked in India?

Anonymous said...

Pros:

-Travel.
-Opportunities to make friends, references, & career opportunities.
-Connecting with other people.

Cons:
-Disorganization
-Conflicting personalities
-Desperation and hopelessness that's caused by stress.
-Advertising can be misleading and often deceptive at times about the organization.

Recklessly PLAIN said...

the experience is not necessarily a waste..everything you do is worth something..you may not get that immediately but its there. I'm doing vista as a gap year between high school and college. I wont go through a lot of the issues a lot of you guys have.But do what you will with the experiences you have.

Anonymous said...

Seems like a lot of people have bad AmeriCorps experience which led them to generaliz the experience as bad. I think completely otherwise. During my PSO, my biggest gripe with AmeriCorps was it's no-respect-to-human-life health insurance. I suffered from a chronic conddition, and thought insurance was paramount. Thankfully I did not have to use the insurance the entire year.

I completed my term yesterday and I was reading these comments drinking my morning coffee. I will wholeheartedly recommend VISTA program, even do a second term if the position sounded appealing. For my term, I was a fund developing assistant, writing grants, creating donor relationship, organizing fundraisers and everything in between from mopping floor, taking phone calls, washing dishes to representing the non-profit in meeting and events. My boss was not perfect, mine life seems to be the most miserable among the three VISTAs we had on site, but it was not that bad eiither. We all got things done and were the best of friends.

We were given a lot of freedom, and the VISTA team always got things done. Our idealistic mindsets did have a lot of problems with things and speculated how things could be improved, we always criticized the weired non-profit politics and lack of innovation, but slowly we realized that these small rebellions came because we really carred about the host sites and wanted the best for the organization.

With a lot of people blaming the VISTA or the host organization, I don't see many comments where people are critical of themselves. If people who complained above were to fill in my position, I can see them complaining. It is a year of life, suck it up (like I did), build relationships, try to solve problems instead of blaming others. A year of service will give you a lot of experience, will look fabulous on your resume, and you will get to know the working of a non-profit and make connections.

You do create a difference as a VISTA although you tend to feel cynical all the time. I managend to raise $17000 in in-kind donnation (a lot of these were capacity building items), $13000 in cash donations as a VISTA exceeding my milestone expectations. I have also applied for about 20 grants asking for about $120,000 few weeks before my VISTA year and hope to get at least 10-20% of those grants funded. Grant writing skills for me is invaluable even though I may not continue the non-profit path. I hit a few problems, but I was about to reason my way thought and solve those problems. I was working hard until the last day at work. I think AmeriCorps is absolutely fantastic program, and hope people go there with a positve image of the program and with a healthy amount of skepticism.

Yes, the money sucks. You knew that from day one. You have a few resources as well. Sadly, I was not qualified for Food Stamps but things worked out one way or the other.

I am going back to grad school with a full scholarship and extremely generous stipend. I got accepted into the program of my dream, thanks in part to the VISTA experience.

VISTA is a great program, find a good fit for you and start serving. It will change your life, for the better.

Anonymous said...

http://www.sltrib.com/sltrib/news/56825403-78/parks-americorps-lake-salt.html.csp

Anonymous said...

AmeriCorps was one of the best experiences of my life. It helped me clarify my career path and gave me the skills I needed to move into a new career. I was in a state program for 2 years and did many different things every week. The education award has enabled me to complete both my bachelors and masters. I met some of my closest friends through my AmeriCorps service. My next job after Corps hired me because of my time in Americorps and the things I learned there. Yes you don't make a lot of money, but if you make smart financial decisions and don't go into it already in a lot of debt, you can make it work. Don't judge an entire program based upon a couple of bad sites. AmeriCorps isn't for everyone and you really need to take a serious look into yourself and the program at each site before making the decision to do it. For me, it changed my life for the better.

Anonymous said...

I worked as a Vista for a summer and a year. I was taxed $600 the following year. I never received my stipend for the year of service (minus 3 weeks) because my circumstances were not properly documented in the computer records. It is very difficult to resolve issues with Americorps, because there are so many parties involved. Finding the appropriate contact is nearly impossible, it is hard to reach a person at any # you call, and phone messages go unanswered. The site I worked at was helpful as far as providing us housing, and paying for our utilities, however, the job itself was HORRIBLE! I am older than most Vista members, and entered into my service with a significant amount of prior work experience. I can honestly say that the woman I worked for was the most horrible person I have ever met, and I was completely miserable working with her. I tried my best to appease her, but she was just mean for the sake of being mean. I would have quit if it was a paid job, but I wanted to stick-it-out for the experience. Towards the end of my service I was transferred to a new position at a different location, and it was the best job I have ever had! I was treated like a volunteer, and everyone was so thankful for my help. My advice is to think hard before becoming a VISTA. Also, it is important to note that you will likely being doing work that is extremely boring, office orientated, and you will probably have little to no contact with the people you serve. I'm happy that I did it, but only because of the life experiences I had over the year I was volunteering. The actual volunteer work I did was not something I would do again, nor a time I want to remember.

Anonymous said...

Wow, it's sad but not surprising that Americorps positions seem to be very hit or miss with mostly miss. My AmeriCorps service is AWESOME but honestly, it's because of my placement not anything to do with AmeriCorps. I'm with Habitat for Humanity, which is large, well-respected and world-wide. It has its own employees just to handle AmeriCorps members. It leads two (free) conferences a year for its AmeriCorps. Best of all, it provides free or very discounted housing (I pay $50 rent), which is why I chose the program. I applied for three positions and interviewed for all three - I asked about help for housing, price of living, duties, etc. Two of them looked like it would be overwhelming work and dirt poor living. With Habitat I am comfortable, I'm supported, and my managers listen to me. I love my work, I love my city and I love my co-workers. AmeriCorps is still a hard system to deal with, but my site manager helps with all the paperwork. Honestly, just like all service corps or gap years or whatever, AmeriCorps totally depends on your placement. DO RESEARCH! I'm in my third month and I love my placement and couldn't be happier with this year of work. But yeah, if I didn't have the almost free rent (along with help getting food stamps and free fun outings!) I wouldn't be able to afford this year.

Anonymous said...

I too was once sucked into the corporate world of americorps. I'm convinced it's a shady business world for political indoctrination. The denver campus I worked with treated me like a gopher and did not care one bit about my wants and needs other than to use me for cheap labor for public relations and being a propagandist "repeating the message". Words cannot describe how much of a waste of time that program was.

Seeing as how the public relations sole purpose is to spin a positive message and revises it's history with it's quasi-workers constantly, it's not honest one bit to work with a corporation like that.

But that's the reality of it. And I also think that the fact that we're subjected to boondoggles is highly unethical in treating us like labor fodder to be thrown away for a leaders paycheck.

I spent more money and did not get the benefits promised by this program. And I don't trust the chain-of-command in that it plays favoritism and undermines the very foundation of teamwork and "professional development".

I saw alot of shady things that happened. One particular instance was on SPIKE. We had a couple people doing illegal drug use and one person apparently had sex with one of the co-workers. All of that was conveniently glossed over.

I smell hypocrisy and self-abuse in this program. Do not join and run the risk of mental cruelty and abject servitude. Americorps is little more than an extension of a slave-labor racket run by type A personalities.

Anonymous said...

I think AmeriCorps was created for an america that no longer really exists.

Back in the day when the middle class was robust and well-off in this country, AmeriCorps gave well-off kids wanting to make a little extra money for college the experience of being totally poor and while helping other poor people.

Then, even in families that worked hard to scramble tuition together and where students took out loans and got grants, there was not the stark realities that exist today for what is left of the middle class.

Then, health insurance was still affordable and both parents did not necessarily have to work, even if sending their kids to private school. Even blue-collar factory workers could pull if off if both parents worked because factory jobs were secure and paid well. College tuitions, though expensive, were nothing like they are now.

I think this program model is out of date and downright cruel. Back then, kids would finish a year in the same state they started it without suffering lingering poverty due to their volunteer year - no residual impact.

Today, families and students are struggling. the volunteer year leaves families and students working for a long time to make up for the negative financial impact the year caused and many are paying for their sacrifice with years of credit repair. School tuition has become a grinding it is so expensive.

The program is nuts. Many many participants need no help learning about poverty by living it because they already live close to poverty and often have cycled in and out of it themselves or grown up in poverty or close to it and can't afford a year that if spent in poverty may plunge them permanently into it.

This program is therefore no longer for the middle class but for the upper middle class and the rich. These are the only people who might benefit from it without incurring unintended costs and indignities that drag on for years after the assignment.

The program has unintentionally become just another way we punish the poor in this country - poor students desperate to use strategies that will help them pay school debt and start their careers.

Anonymous said...

Having nothing to do is appearing again and again in these posts and it really points to the quality of the nonprofits people are being assigned to.

Noprofits that are under-utilizing assets are bad nonprofits, period.It's no secret that some nonprofits operate this way. None of these vistas should blame themselves for it.

For those who would suggest that in that situation vistas should take the initiative to propose projects to busy themselves all I can say is that might sometimes work and to try it, but everyone should be aware of the fact that at most nonprofits that are malingerers, this sort of initiative is considered at best disruptive and at worst a threat to be quashed quickly.

Anonymous said...

I have been in AmeriCorps for about four and a half months. I absolutely love my service site and supervisors. I knew the pay would suck going into it, but its just getting hard to make ends meet. My only real complaint would be that I don't feel like I've accomplished anything. I'm serving at a public library where my original "job description" was tutoring and promoting literacy. Well it didn't dawn on me that people weren't standing in line for hours to learn how to read. My supervisor even told me she barely has enough to keep herself busy, let alone find work for someone else who works 15 extra hours a week. So I eventually had to talk to my coordinator about adding other tasks to my description so now I spend most of my time
In the Children's dept. preparing crafts for Storytime which I love doing. But then I have to try to come up with all this stuff to record on my time sheet! They don't want me sitting at a desk all day but when you only have ONE student everyday for DIRECT tutoring, its gets hard. I guess I was just expecting to "change the world" like most of us just starting out do. Instead I've become an expert at using the copier and Keurig. Like I said, I love what I'm doing now and will probably stay after my year is up. I just think the job descriptionn was pretty misleading and that having a fulltime volunteer at a small public library isn't the best idea. There just isn't enough "direct service" work to do! Plus, I am the most isolated member in my area so I can't even travel to service projects and stuff like that. I don't know, I guess I have mixed feeling about it all right now.

Anonymous said...

I'm 5 months into my Americorps contract and I hate every minute of it. My site supervisor loved the last Americorps member that was there before me and thus, I'm looked upon like a piece of dirt because I'm not the same quality as they were. My site only has ONE Americorp member. That's it. It's me and the site supervisor all day long. I do absolutely nothing all day long, except towards the end of the month when I plan events for the following month. The pay is God awful but I knew that going in and I don't really have a problem with it but it is getting harder to make ends meet. I received next to zero training from my site supervisor, as the prior Americorps member gave me the best crash course she could before leaving. I feel completely under utilized and definitely get zero appreciation for what I do. My site supervisor is too scatter brained and A.D.D. to direct me on most days. It's bad enough that it's been weighing on me heavily enough to effect my depression. I thought I'd be happy here and I thought I'd be serving the community (I don't. I do administrative tasks when I am assigned something) but I've had a rude awakening. A member of my family has been having some severe health issues which may force me to have to quit and as much as I hate that that's happening, I almost feel like it's a Godsend. I'd rather spend my time taking care of them than getting my soul sucked from my body 8 hours a day.

Anonymous said...

It does sound like many have had a rough experience as AmeriCorps.
For those who have had a bad experience, I would suggest following one of the alumni facebook pages. Perhaps there, you could share your experiences and engage conversation to help alleviate the issues for future AmeriCorps members?
For those who had a good experience with AmeriCorps, I would recommend the same. You too can add to the conversation, and help shape the future of the program.
I am a second year "AmeriPoor", and have mixed feelings about my time in. I continued with a second term due to the lack of employment prospects...hey, at least it's a steady paycheck after unemployment is exhausted and it keeps me occupied...
I have learned a lot (mainly due to those I work with), but have also felt many of the frustrations shared in this "forum".
The Health Care is lacking (not even compliant with 2014's Affordable Care Act), the pay sucks ($6.50/hour for semi-skilled construction labor!?!), and the paperwork is tedious.
There are benefits to service: I feel good about the people I have helped during my service, the skills I have learned, the appreciation I have received (from the non-profit staff I work with), and I have met numerous people that will likely be life-long friends.
"Good on you" for those who have completed their term, and "chin up" for those of you still in it!
PS- I am still looking for work...I recall reading that "getting off welfare" was a valid reason to terminate the AmeriCorps contract...

Anonymous said...

For the person who commented on "if you want to quit you've obviously never had to do hard work" - I have which is why I am quitting because I do absolutely nothing all day long and feel guilty about wasting hard earned tax dollars on my position.

As for everyone sticking around because its a "commitment" despite how its still so horrible - would you stay committed to an abusive relationship with a boyfriend/girlfriend who constantly cheated on you and lied to you? It won't look bad to future employers if you quit as long as you explain yourself- otherwise you look like a fool for staying!

tcelenta said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Wow! It seems like most people have really disliked their Americorps position (as if someone hasn't made the same observation yet).
I have had a very mixed experience, and I agree with everyone here, but to a much lesser extreme.
First off I should state that I am from a lower middle-class family. I have college loans to pay off. I have managed to travel because I put finding my path in life before everything else, while still balancing the checkbooks, so I can end up doing something I love. I was able to save $200 month from the stipend (I was on foodstamps, road my bike to work, on family cell phone plan). I did not receive help from my family. I was able to do this because I am used to living minimally, especially because I like to travel and move around a lot.
I moved to a new site in rural Arizona. I was the third generation VISTA, so everyone in the community was extremely welcoming to me. I was fortunate to walk into a site where the two women before me had been very successful- they made great partnerships with the community, successfully started a thriving farmers' market, generally enjoyed their time despite the challenges, etc.
There are still those challenges- days with nothing to do, followed by days with your to-do pile stacked high and not a day off. Jaded coworkers,unorganized, negative office politics. It was hard to fend off the negativity and still try and get to work on what I think is important here.
I have grown cynical over the fact that VISTA began, at least they say, as a really effective means of combating poverty in America, and now it's turned into the government justifying cutting funding for non-profits by allowing them to apply to receive Americorps VISTAs. For those of us who actually feel like they have a worthwhile job, we'd probably get paid a lot more for the same position if we were hired through the organization rather than Americorps (granted they could pay).
That being said, I feel like I've generally had a great experience. Sure, there were HUGE challenges, but now that I'm two weeks away from finishing, I do feel like I've accomplished something. After traveling through developing countries for a year prior to my service, I was just happy to have my own private space and drink water I didn't have to boil. I think you have to be humble about your stance and expectations and stay true to your personal mission. I hope you think about WHY you want to join. If it's because you think you're settling, you're going to come into it with a negative attitude. For me, I knew "saving the world" was a naive notion, but my heart really was in trying to help the community where I was sent. I didn't care about the money.
I also think it depends on the employer with whom you're interviewing for a future job, whether or not Americorps on your resume will be a hindrance or an asset. If you are applying to a large, for-profit company, they may see it as a hindrance. If you're not money minded, you won't be as driven to help their company thrive and put more bills in the pockets of people you don't interact with. But if you joined Americorps because you believe in grassroots, non-profit, community work, I don't see why a future employer wouldn't see it as an asset.
In short, your heart has to be in it. Your heart has to be in it enough to overcome the obstacles you face.
I am burnt out NOW, but I wasn't in the beginning.
That said, if you find that your heart was in it, but you don't think you're doing worthwhile work, or you're twiddling your thumbs for an unreasonable amount of time, then don't waste your time. But make sure to quit for the right reasons.

Anonymous said...

Hello all! I'm in the midst of applying for and hearing back from AmeriCorps' Anti-Hunger and Opportunity Corp Program. Has anyone experienced this particular program? What stories can you share? Thanks!!

Anonymous said...

I've been in a State/National program for little over a month and just started thinking about quitting. I have been optimistic and I continue to work hard, but I have to be honest for the sake of those who are thinking of joining Americorps.

I left a higher paying job in my hometown to work in this program, because I feel the work--removing invasive plants in state parks-- is important and I wanted a chance to make that difference. Now I drive over 300 miles a week to stand around in work sites that have few resources for me to work safely/sensibly(and little explanation for scarcity). I'm treated as uneducated and am expected to complete the hours requirement with back breaking labor or boring b.s. tasks that count as "work". I'm naturally expected to do work that I was told I wouldn't have to do during my interview. The program started late, so I wouldn't even earn the education award unless I begin working overtime.

I came into this program full force and I've realized that Americorps presence either annoys my supervisors or gives them a chance to goof off--depending on which day. The only other Americorps member I work with (who is a "get my buddy's kid a job" sort-of deal) doesn't have the job skills that I do and so I will bear the grunt work everyday--for forty hours a week, for the next year. I often arrive home with my body in pain and the accident/injury policy is s**t. I can live with my monthly stipend, but it won't last with these conditions.

I've been filling out applications for a weekend job since I started here with Americorps but what I might end up doing is swapping jobs. My other option is to take control over my hours/situation, get another job, and forget about the education award. I also agree with the poster who says get a regular job and volunteer in your free time. The only difference between Americorps and any volunteer work you can find on your own is money. If I didn't get paid, I'd just stop showing up today.

Anonymous said...

I served in Americorps about 6 years ago. It was a horrible waste of time. My first week on the job, I just knew that it was not going to work and that I'd made a mistake. My supervisor left about halfway through my service so I was sort of handed off to various other supervisors who really didn't know what to do with me nor really cared. Consequently, I spent the last 6 months of my service literally surfing the internet for 8 hours a day. However, I ended up riding it out and I'm positive that having this service on my resume got me into grad school. This many years later though, I don't even bother putting "VISTA" on my resume.

Anonymous said...

I have four months to go in my amaricorps vista position and it has been a struggle to stay...recently my service site / administration that I have been working with got a new job leaveing all current projects to be run souly by me. When developing these projects she insisted it wasn't necessary to include any one else in the projects....now I'm in a hard place with 1 week to the events and no help completeing them or planning the rest of it.....the reasonable response might be to drop them leaving me with a huge feeling of failure....amaricorps is extremely emotionally draining. I enjoy what I do and think I'm learning a lot but there have deffinitly been times (as today) where I have to skip going into work to keep myself sane. This of course makes me feel like I have a horrable work ethic and that I'm not cut out for real life work (although I held a amazing waitressing job for seven years prior tto amaricorps this is my first encounter with a professional atmosphere) Does anyone in vista feel the same way?

Anonymous said...

About a month ago on our local job-search engine, I saw an ad placed by a local nonprofit about one of several VISTA positions. I applied for it the next day, was interviewed in a week, and then got the offer a week later.

I am "educated" (Master's degree), with many years of work under my belt that would allow me to carry out the specifics of this job in a satisfactory way.

With all this in mind, I've wondered why it's taken me this long (a month) to really "get" what Americorps positions are--and why so many people on here have felt duped. Honestly, I think it's the manner in which we come to know about openings: THEY ARE ADVERTISED IN JOB LISTINGS!

If they were only listed UNDER volunteer opportunities on sites like idealist.org (or Americorps's site, itself), our brains wouldn't consider them as "job-jobs"--and we wouldn't be viewing the paltry living stipend as slave wages. I don't know how Peace Corps works, in terms of "living stipends"--but I grew up never thinking of Peace Corps as slave labor: I thought of it as SERVICE that was really difficult to pull off. I know there are problems with the Peace Corps, too (One of my closest friends had a nightmare experience.)--but do you ever see Peace Corps positions advertised in the employment listings? No.

I really think this is a simple first step that Americorps could take to start the overhaul: Require sites that have received grants to NOT advertise in typical job listings.

Obviously, few people would take the positions, then, but . . . not our problem, right?

Anonymous said...

The only good thing AmeriCorps is good for, is a job to help pay the bills until something better comes along. I too joined AmeriCorps (under YouthBuild) to help make a difference, only to find out that the non-profit I am serving at is a joke. I do absolutely nothing all week but update social media sites...because THAT truly makes a difference! I am very limited to direct service, can only conduct that every two weeks, all creative ideas that I shared were never taken into condieration..so you are treated as if you are unintelligent, or maybe they dislike the fact that you are more innovative than they are. I tried to look for other work within the first two months of my service term. I have talked to my VISTA manager on numerous occasions...it was all turned around as if I were whiny and couldn't handle the work. Ha...there was no work...ever! Now, I am not saying that everyone will have a bad experience based on their service site...but it is definitely not a position for someone who wants to help others, that's for sure! My background is social work and counseling, so I thought this would be the perfect opportunity while pursuing my Masters Degree....wrong! It may look good on paper, but as far as being able to truly do what you anticipated...don't waste your time. I have a month and one week to go...I only hung in there for the education award and for a resume decoration.

Anonymous said...

I am just about finished with my 2nd year of service as a national direct member. My two years of service consisted of intense physical labor under extreme weather conditions, being treated as a tool fetcher, a human mule for heavy equipment and many run in the mill tasks that are mundane and not enjoyable. But let me know discourage you from Americorp because I am honest and fair and I have had many great experiences as well.

I had the pleasure in assisting hundreds of volunteers, meeting a walks of life, which made work very slow pace and fun. Working in this environment was a learning curve and if I messed up on a task, I simply fixed it with no penalty, unlike a corporation that would terminate you job on the spot. I have also made valuable connection for my life outside of Americorp which would not of happened if I didn't wear the Americorp logo on my shoulder. Doing good things for your community ( Even if you feel you are not contributing like you thought) always comes around at the end of the day.

In addition, some perks are the education award. Ya you get taxed at the end, but really? Were talking $11,000 at the end of the day. And Americorp paying the interests on your student loans, who is going to do that for you fresh out of college? Especially in an economy were you may not land your dream job. I have had extensive job offers and even interests in colleges due to the Americorp logo. Think outside the box a little bit before jeopardizing a positive future over a bad year of service.

Your service year will depend on what position you take. If you decide to work with children, it will be extremely rewarding. If you choose to do construction, depending on the affiliate, it may be great or a disaster. Either way, people will realize that an Americorp is most likely financially not as stable as the people you are helping, which brings immenseful pressure on us, always debating if we are making a difference or not.

My opinion for anybody debating about Americorp is to look for a program you will be interested in and that may help your future. There is even a robotics program about to start. Getting some experience, pay some student loan debt off and get that first career job is possible through Americorp.

deneen pancari said...

Hmmm...interesting to read everyone's experiences. I feel bad for any perspective AmeriCorps VISTAs who come to this for information. Many things to complain about but what about the positive? I had a very weird VISTA term and though I would give it another year with a different organization and WOW, what an amazing experience. I am completing my 2nd term and had a project extension. No reason to push your own awful personal experience on others. If someone wants to pursue the program, let them do it! I wouldn't change my VISTA years for anything.

Anonymous said...

I went thru a serious interviewing process for my assignment and was approved in June to be a Database Reporting Specialist. Sounds great, right? I came on board Aug 11 only to find that the site supervisor who had approved me had a new supervisor replace her. She wanted the database...he didn't. So why didn't they call me and let me know before I came. I wouldn't have accepted the assignment. I lasted a total 9 freaking days before they "released" me!! On my 2nd day, they sat me down with gov't contracts and told me to watch some YouTube videos to learn this new computer program (hundreds of YouTube videos may I point out) and to put the basic points of the contract on the website. Whaaaa???? I was lost. On the 9th day, they walked me into a conference room and while they called it being "released", it felt like I was being fired. I was so embarrassed and humiliated. I made a point of telling VISTA before this all happened how bad it was...and they were all "we're so sorry you're experiencing this" and "this isn't what we want VISTAs to experience". They said they would help me but they never did. I can't trust them because it feels like I was thrown under the bus. Good luck to you VISTAs that it works for you. It certainly didn't for me and left me with a bad taste in my mouth for Americorps-VISTA.

Anonymous said...

Wow. I can't express how refreshing, yet bittersweet it is to see so many others experiencing the emotions I am with this entire Americorps experience. The anger, frustration, anguish, etc I feel it all. And I'm not a person who generally quits anything, but there is a first time for everything. As soon as I get a better opportunity, to hell with this. I need a real job where I can earn some actual money. This "living" stipend is a fucking joke. I am used to living a certain way and having money. I can pay maybe 3 bills total and then I am broke. NO. I'm outta here as soon as something better paying comes along. I couldn't care less about a damn commitment. I am a college grad with REAL BILLS. This shit is for the birds.

This placement is wack as well. They spend several days off and I am not going to be in the office by myself for 8.5 hours staring at a computer screen. Also, I am not thrilled about taking time from my weekends to do service days. Fuck that. A real job (one I would prefer at least) would have me work M-F and that's it. I should not have to be forced to do mandatory service days. If i want to volunteer with that, I can do the shit on my own time and discretion. I am just over this entire experience and I am getting out ASAP.

Cut Class Flaunt Sass said...

I am 3 months in to my second year with Americorps and I am here on this blog because I am also thinking about quitting. A little background:

Last year I served with City Year (I think it's a State program) after graduating college. I think they spoiled us with idealistic people and great leadership. I pushed myself and grew a lot that year. We worked 10+ hours a day, some weekends, making maybe about $5 an hour after calculations. At the end of the year, despite the exhausting work, I really felt like I made a difference to the lives to children.

This year I am doing the dreaded VISTA program. From what I see in the comments, this may be the worst Americorps program. It is probably because it is the only one that is indirect service. I don't mind indirect service, I've done it before for 3 years with a different non-profit in college. Also I am making more this year, closer to $8.50 per hour, so it's not about money for me at all. The VISTA program is just not challenging, there's a lot of risk that you'll be placed at a uninspiring or discouraging non-profit, and I feel like it sucks any motivation out of idealistic young people. I don't mind the work, but I don't believe in being miserable somewhere you spend 40 hours of your life every week. In fact the work is not hard at all and I feel like I am teaching the staff here more than they are teaching me. VISTA should try to target those who have experience or certain skills, not young college graduates.

Summary: If you just graduated college and are looking in to serving your country, do not do VISTA. I would suggest a different Americorps program that is direct service. (I am a City Year champion and would recommend that to anybody!!)

Anonymous said...

So I have been applying to jobs left and right, and I finally had an interview that I kicked ass at and they offered me a position and damn right I accepted. Now I am just figuring out what is the process of resigning from this AmeriCorps BS? I am not a VISTA but at a state program that I won't disclose.

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Anonymous said...

I agree. Do not join AmeriCorps VISTA. I've never cried this much before I did this. I wish someone would have told me this before.

Anonymous said...

Do not join AmeriCorps VISTA. I wish someone would have told me this..

Anonymous said...

If anyone is struggling with their organization, read the "2015 Terms and Conditions for AMERICORPS STATE and NATIONAL GRANTS" to check if your organization is following the rules of their AmeriCorps grant. You may file a grievance. At least you can prevent it from happening to someone else.

http://www.nationalservice.gov/sites/default/files/upload/AmeriCorps%20TermsConditions%204%200215.pdf (previously called "AmeriCorps State and National Grant Provisions")

Anonymous said...

I really wish someone would have told me to not join AmeriCorps VISTA. My organization that I worked for was very mean, rude, angry, demanding, and not supportive. They made me cry a lot. I'm really being honest. Please...if you are considering, please do not join AmeriCorps VISTA. Please.

The History Boy said...

I'm 10 months into a VISTA term and, while it hasn't been a total nightmare, largely owing to placement with a good site that I was already familiar and comfortable with, I want to vent here about one especially galling aspect of the program's policy and rhetoric.
Yes, I knew upon entering that our living stipend would be below poverty level. I knew it would be a struggle and, true to form, it has. But even though I've learned to live at this level (barely, and with some assistance from well-heeled parents, yes I'm that kind of VISTA), the rhetorical justification they offer for underpaying us is laughable and downright insulting.
There is no benefit to living like a poor person. Let me repeat that: Being poor fucking sucks. It is not ennobling. It does not breed compassion or empathy. It is a life-altering experience, but only in the sense that it will destroy your credit and damage your future earning prospects for years to come, and occasionally stress you out to the point of breakdown. Poverty, as most of us have come to learn if we didn't already know it, is hazardous to your health, physically, mentally and spiritually. It saps your confidence, robs you of motivation, and if it teaches you anything it's how to hustle to get by, sometimes in unscrupulous ways. For all we here from the progressive left about the sins of affluence, in my experience the poor tend to be at least as grasping and materialistic as the rich, if for no other reason than they must spend all their waking hours concentrating on how to make the next buck, if only to make rent.
And yet VISTA makes it sound as if it's somehow good for us. Well I have news for them: I'm a grown adult and I don't need to spend a year slumming it up on wages that would be illegal in any other context just to "build character" or "share the experience of the poor" blah blah blah. The fact of the matter is I am less effective in my job due to the stress I'm constantly under wondering which bill to pay this month, or fighting to convince the braindead organ banks at the Department of Human Services not to reduce my food stamps because my VISTA stipend is legally exempt. Yes, I recognize this is a dilemma that poor people encounter their whole lives, but I had the impression that was a bad thing, otherwise we wouldn't be trying to alleviate it, amirite?
So to all those who are telling the people on this forum to suck it up, you can do it, etc., why don't you try telling that to the clients you serve? I'm sure they'd appreciate hearing that all they need is a good attitude and some resourcefulness and, hey, it's not that bad, is it? As it is, many of my clients make more than I do, and if it sounds like I'm resentful of that fact, it's because I am.
Again, I knew I'd be underpaid and I'm dealing with it. But I'm insulted by the implication this is good for me. If AmeriCorps could just be straight with us and admit that it's not about character building but rather that they just don't have the funds to pay us what we deserve for the supposedly valuable work we're doing, I'd at least be able to swallow it more easily. Instead, not only am I struggling to feed myself on this pittance, but I'm left feeling like I'm doing it on a lie.

Anonymous said...

Congratulations, last commenter. Your 10 months HAVE been worth something because you DID learn soemthing valuable. You don't want to be told to suck it up, so you wouldn't tell your clients to.

Coming from a "well-heeled" background, is that something you can honestly say you would have avoided doing ten months ago? Now you know for a fact that it takes more than a good attitude and resourcefulness to escape poverty.

Yes, AmeriCorps positions should pay at least minimum wage. It's utter shit that they don't. But even minimum wage isn't enough to live on, so raising the stipend to that wouldn't change a damn thing. It's a systemic problem that goes far beyond VISTA stipends.

Rage in the Desert said...

Hi everyone,

I am in americorps now and I hate it beyond all reason. I have effectively destroyed my personal, academic, and professional prospects by coming here and I am actively looking for a way out.
I gain nothing from saying so here, but at least I'm in good company.

Thing is-I don't really give one fuck about my program anymore. I don't feel any shame, guilt, or anger in that they are not utilizing me to the fullest. They don't want my help? Fine. Fuck them. I'll look for someone who does and who is willing to actually pay me for it.

My two cents, anyway-don't give people what they don't earn. In this case, that's my graduate degree in sustainable agriculture, a publishes research thesis, fluency in two languages, and five internships.

Screw you too americorps.

Anonymous said...

99.99% of this seems like site related issues, as opposed to systemic issues with AmeriCorps or the VISTA program. If you're at a sucky site, then your year of service is gonna suck. You're told up front that you're not going to be making much money, and that it will be a tough. If you can't take it, don't sign up. Simple as that.

Anonymous said...

I recently finished my year. I was verbally abused while being paid garbage wages. To be told at the end that my supervisor that the exec director was unsatisfied with my work and wouldn't be giving me a good recommendation when I had zero direction for six months is unbelievable.

Found out at the end that my site has had VISTAs for more than eleven years. Listened to paid coworkers talk shit about a completely unpaid AmeriCorps volunteer who quit because she felt like the program wasn't a good fit and a paid staffer actually said "she should know she can be easily replaced."

This program is just inexpensive labor to these nonprofits. Nothing more. They know it.

Last year, this work was everything I wanted to do. Now I feel burnt out and just stupid. I feel stupid because you want to be able to say "this is the year that changed my life" like all the other people who do service year programs, but I can't say that. I can say I lived in poverty, on a block where there was just a shooting. I'm just tired and I feel so, so stupid. I wish I could just blank it all out.

Anonymous said...

Welll then... I wish i had seen this page before starting Americorp. Tomorrow is my first day and now im kind of scared. I hope I dont have a bad experience.

Anonymous said...

You can report AmeriCorps grant violations: http://www.cncsoig.gov/hotline


"The Office of Inspectors General (OIG) operates a Fraud Hotline to provide an opportunity for concerned citizens, program participants, employees of Corporation for National and Community Service grant recipients, Volunteers, and others to report instances of fraud, waste, abuse of authority, and mismanagement."


OIG Hotline telephone number is 1-800-452-8210. Reports may also be made via e-mail to hotline@cncsoig.gov

Anonymous said...

I remember the time I was in Denver NCCC from 2012 - 2013. In the month of February of 2013 I was forced to either get booted for supposed "conduct problems" or to appeal the decision by the sun unit and it's unscrupulous chain-of-command. Stupidly I did. I went through what an interrogation farce is like and was verbally abused and insulted as "autistic" for at least 45 minutes while being asked questions just to make me look like an even bigger fool. It's like these people get off on self-aggrandizement and have the gumption to smile at you to add insult to injury. Very nefarious in it's framework. Which is ludicrous for a non-profit like Denver Americorps to portray itself with a facade of "helping the community". The Denver campus like the rest of the bureaucracy in the world only cares about an obedient dumbed down workforce. I have no respect to this day for any of the people that end up being users and abusers that will have sexual intercourse with supervisors and engage in a limited hangout with their public relations and do narcotics on the worksite. Stark reality to say the least.

TL;DR Fuck them all.

Anonymous said...

Previous Anon, thanks for the OIG info. I may have to consider speaking to someone there. Wish I had the actual grant info!



Seems like whenever I talk to people at my site about the purpose of VISTA vs what we actually get used for, they're defensive and tell me that I just don't know the whole history. (Also that my bedside manner sucks. Probably true on both counts.)

I'm not privy to the grant paperwork shuffle behind the scenes, but not a lot about my experience with my program's leadership leads me to believe they're particularly scrupulous about playing by the rules. For instance, I get kind of grossed out that we have outwardly legit-looking "community" programs that started as VISTA projects years ago... and are STILL almost entirely VISTA-run today. Is that legal?! I really don't know!

I'm just like... I thought the purpose of VISTA was to loan NPOs cheap, educated workers so they could try new things out, evaluate the results, and then have a little breathing room to figure out how to sustain the new stuff once the VISTAs moved on.

Not to indefinitely subsidize a bunch of half-baked programs.



All that said, I plan to stay the year, do my bit, and fight like mad if needed, vs quit. The main up side of a "job" like this is that it is hard for them to fire you just for calling it like you see it.

Anonymous said...

Well these are old comments but I agree fully with everyone! In my 1st year and I regret agreeing to a 2nd year. Vista definitely needs to be removed or pay increased. The work and environment we are in, is far too stressful to get crumbs for it.

Anonymous said...

I am in my second week of AmeriCorps State program and I already feel the way most people on this blog feel. It seems my site/agency does not have any other funding for direct service except through true volunteers and AmeriCorps volunteers. ...and they have a pretty large grant for AmeriCorps, to the point there is not enough work for all of us! I concur with those in their 30 somethings - we've been there and had responsibility before, we need a true picture of what we'll be doing before we sign ourselves up. In the interview, I had an idea that it would be slow-going, as it is a developing program in process, but I thought I would be given some responsibility and direction to go at with some independence ... now I'm seriously praying that a couple of interviews I've been offered subsequent to accepting this AmeriCorps Member position will lead me somewhere so that I can leave this Americorps Member position ASAP. I had left the job market to stay at home with my children and now I'm attempting to get back into the job market, and this was just my first offer. It happens to be with the population that I have had experience with and have loved to work with, too. Unfortunately my supervisor, who is accustomed to doing most of the direct service (as this is the first year for this grant) considers it still her duty to micro-manage and hover over the Americorps Members, we are all quite capable, but not being given responsibility or leadership. Mostly we are her personal assistants/ interns and sometimes we just warm chairs in the office with nothing to do while she tells us "I have so many emails..!" The she turns to us and says you will probably never get many emails, and if you ever send one, you will need to CC it to me because I need to see all emails you are sending out. Thus far, every evening when it is time to go home for the day, I come home, overwhelmed with thoughts of how horrible it is that money is being channeled in this way (yes tax dollars) and I am taking part in this injustice to American dollars and artificial agency that supposedly does great things and has a great name in the media as a new and upcoming non-profit. They are in fact, exploiting the very people they are supposed to be empowering (half of the Americorps Members are directly hand picked from the communities and populations we serve as there would be a language barrier otherwise). Most of the time, I just want to yell at everyone about how frustrated I am, how I feel so irrelevant and insignificant at the office. I actually feel like there is more for me to do at home than at the office and I should just quit so that the laundry can get done and the house can be clean again.

Anonymous said...

Denver NCCC for me in the Sun Unit from 2012 - 2013 reminds me of what being treated like total shit is really like. A big "Fuck You" to all corporations that use people at $2.50 an hour and think it's okay to just downplay the chaotic realities of what these "volunteers" have to go through. None of you who think this program is about actually helping others is what you'll get out of it. You will be shafted and abused to the point of absurdity and you will not see the world as a kind or fair existence when you enter this program. Stay away from it at all costs. It's possibly the worst program you could ever enter. From power-tripping supervisors to blatant ego-tripping on all ends of the spectrum in the most authoritarian ways possible that define authoritarianism.

Go fuck yourself Americorps.

Anonymous said...

Hey guys! Just a quick public service annoucement to all on this blog and who visit it.

Vaughn Cottman of Americorps NCCC has been distributing malware on his twitter account. He was bragging about it and posted links that were website redirects. Upon scanning the websites, they were blacklisted as malware and some were posted on phishtank. Just a heads up. Do not do business with him. He will act like you're inferior to him and treat you like you're just a doll to be toyed around with. Do not go to Denver NCCC. They will blame you for their own incompetence and willful dishonesty on their behalf.

According to virustotal.com, these websites contain malware. I found it on this users page as part of what seemed to me as suspicious activity involving "making money off of internet survey's". It's a website redirect from facebook onto what's now been reported as a malicious malware website.

http://t.co/6Ix0bGjy
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https://twitter.com/vcottman

Avoid it like the plague.

Lost hero said...

I am a new AmeriCorps VISTA volunteer in Denver. I am overwhelmed because I am looking for affordable housing, and I can't live off the stipend.
I enjoy my work, but I am homeless, and this sucks! I think I can make a difference, however, it is quietly noted to me that perhaps I may have to hatched this endeavor. I don't want to let go, but, I am now sure if I can get corporate AmeriCorps VISTA to assist in help. No, I don't expect them to give me housing, but I don't know my options. Any suggestions.

Anonymous

Frances Anna Ayers said...

I am a middle aged woman in her early fifties with a graduate degree in the human service field,and am wondering if there are any other members who are over 40 and had a positive experience.

Anonymous said...

Frances Anna Ayers,
I am not in my 40s, but I am in my 30s...I have a Master's degree in Natural Resource Management, and I was "hired" as a VISTA for a conservation-based non-profit. So far, I am only about a month in...
This is my current view of this program:
I accepted the position because it offered me a chance to gain experience in my new field (I changed careers with my Master's degree) doing EXACTLY what I want to do career-wise and in the location I wanted. However, like many of the other VISTA's have mentioned, the living stipend is ridiculous. I am lucky to be married and have another full-time income to support us, but if I did not have that, there is NO WAY this would be worth it. Also, unbeknownst to me, my site was experiencing a MAJOR employee-turnover/transition phase. I am trying to be patient, but I have not really done much work so far because they are still trying to organize everything. There are literally DAYS where I just play on the computer, text, research, etc. And I am NOT the type of person who does that anyways. I am a total type-A, task-oriented person, and not having work is driving me crazy.
I think that IF my site gets everything organized, and IF I am able to stay on long-term after my contract is over or get another great job, Americorps will be worth it. But if I leave here with no job, it is definitely not.

Anonymous said...

blah

Anonymous said...

I'm an AmeriCorps in my 10th month and I want to blow my brains out. I do nothing for 8 hours every day. I have had 3 clients last month. Impressive, I know.

The living stipend isn't TERRIBLE if you have a second job, but have fun having no time to do anything other than work.

If I worked at a different site with a competent supervisor, I believe I wouldn't have just wasted my time. She is a complete nincompoop who uses words like "ex-specially" and whose IQ is nowhere to be found. Good Lord, woman, use your words!

I have absolutely no respect for such an idiotic, passive-aggressive, illiterate woman who somehow got her job without having any basic qualifications to do so.

AmeriCorps is for post-grads who live off of Mommy and Daddy's money and don't mind brown-nosing. Period.

Anonymous said...

Well, here it is 2017, and AmeriCorps VISTA is the same scam it's always been. I took my position because of the work I was told I would do, and I was lied to. I have been bored, disrespected, and desperate to finish this jail sentence. AmeriCorps and AmeriCorps VISTA are a colossal waste of time-DO NOT JOIN! You will be lied to, left without any meaningful work, treated badly, ignored, criticized, and receive no support from anywhere.Your placement site will not care about you, the AmeriCorps VISTA Sacramento center will not help you or support you, you will be left totally on your own in a low-income ghetto to fend for yourself.

Spencer said...

I recently finished my paperwork for the part time work thing and havent started working yet but the term started in October and i am starting in December till july, i am being told i have to make a minimum of 25hrs a week on top of the 200 i missed out on, now being a full time college student and being in college tuesday wednsday and thursday id have to work rediculous hours to make up for lost time AND keep up, they havent gotten my social security card scanned in nor registered my bank account bc i havent given it to them, im actually scared and need help, its wednsday and i have till friday someone PLEASE give me some guidance

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John Rembo said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Americorps Kansas Volunteer said...

Americorps puts on a noble front, but in reality, its a way for organizations to get free labor. Unfortunately, Americorps is able to get around a lot of labor laws because we are considered "service members" and not employees. There have been many weeks where I have been forced to work over 50 hours, though I am considered a part-time member. The organization we are placed in sees us as free labor, as I mentioned before, and also sees us as an easy scapegoat for problems created by upper-management. Completely ridiculous. I cannot wait to be finished with my hours. Hoping Trump just defunds it already.

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