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. 

294 comments:

1 – 200 of 294   Newer›   Newest»
Mandi said...

Just another former 'Corps member here to concur with Heather ... except for that education stipend thing. It's amazingly cool, so long as you're careful about the taxes. Or, I could still be bitter about that whole ordeal ...

Either way, stick with the 'Corps.

Heather said...

Ok, you can still get part of your education stipend if you quit - but only if you have extenuating circumstances that absolutely prevent you from finishing your contract year.

Mandi said...

I just re-read my comment and confused myself. What I meant to say was, I agree with H except about the education award being the coolest thing since sliced bread. I did not mean to imply that I disagree b/c there's some lame ass way of loop holing it and getting your ed award anyway.

She's still right. The ed award is just a killer on the tax return unless you have spawn to claim.

Anonymous said...

The Americorps Program needs to aborted. The Ed Award isn't worth it TRUST ME. After all the debt you have after the year is over, you'll STILL be out of school for another year trying to get your credit score back up.

Heather said...

I haven't incurred any extra debt the past two years, but I'm also married and live with another full time wage earner.

Rather than aborting the program, they should increase the living stipend above the poverty level.

In addition, there are many programs that pay WAY above the base stipend.

Eva said...

I'm struggling to get through the AmeriCorps program. I regret joining, but if I leave now I've pretty much wasted all this time and I can't afford to move back to my home state anyhow.
I've pretty much wasted a year of my life doing barely 15 hours of work a week.

Annemarie said...

I agree with Eva and the person who said Americorps needs to be closed down. It's a waste of money and most employers look at you afterwards and say, "Why the heck would you work for $200/wk? That doesn't show a whole lot of intelligence." I say this as an HR person with a year of VISTA under my belt. The ed award barely paid for anything and I know that working as a VISTA is a do-nothing social work job at nonprofits with sketchy finances and weird leaders. I tell people NOT to do it. It's not worth it and these nonprofits don't create any worthwhile change at all.

Anonymous said...

I completed a year of Americorps. I too say do not join AmeriCorps. The idea behind the program is neat, but in the end it left me extrememly frustrated. The main reason for the frustration is the bureaucracy and fence jumping associated with the health insurance AmeriCorps gives you. Also, if afterward regardless of not having a good job I was taxed $600. The program is made to help people out of sticky financial situations but in the process sends Alumni into them.

Also, non-profits are usually not all they are cracked up to be. Yes, they may do good things, but they put on a false front.

Someone must be really being paid well in Americorps for the organization to continue to put forth a glowing marketing scheme. Of the 20 people I started the service with 10 finished and of these 10, 8 disliked their experiece (myself included).

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

I'm currently enrolled as a quartertime Americorps member, and unfortunately, its one of the worst community service projects I've done. The project I was initially joined for was stopped after 6 months and now I'm left halfway done with nothing to do. As a quartertime member I don't have any training and am left to come up with my own projects and do them by myself (as there are no more members in my area, they all quit before their contract was up). I've never felt so lost before. I definitely regret joining. The tuition stipend really isnt even worth doing. With some 200 odd hours left, I could make up the measly $1250 stipend working at a regular job for half (100 hours!) the time. I'm in the process of trying to quit but someone up on the bureaucratic ladder is being a pain in the ass.

Anyone know if quitting will leave a bad impression so that it will affect me getting in my Physician Assistant school of choice? Does Americorps somehow blackmail you later in life for not finishing? Can grad schools find out that I quit?

Thanks and Good luck everyone!

Anonymous said...

Hello,

I was wondering if anyone knew of someone who has had to pay back all of the money they earned at Americorps after quitting.

Thanks...

Anonymous said...

I recently quit my VISTA position with about 2 months left in my term of "service." VISTA was the biggest waste of my time, and i regret joining. There were so many other worthwhile things I could have done out of college. There were many weeks that I had only a few hours of "work" to do. I brought my boredom up several times with my supervisors and nothing ever changed. And now, I am not being given ANY of my education award because I did not leave under "compelling circumstances." Isn't being lied to about a job description and NOT having ANY work to do a compelling reason to quit?? Americorps and VISTA is a HUGE waste of taxpayer money. It needs to be done away with.

Anonymous said...

Well, I am just now entering my own stint in AmeriCorps and I don't think I have ever been so frustrated. My supervisor is a bit of a loon. I just moved to Utah from the east coast, and I couldn't even get help finding a place to live. I was very put off as a new employee who didn't even seem wanted.

And now I am in a bit of trouble because my PSO training is next week and I have yet to receive my itinerary. The organization paired up with AmeriCorps for travel services almost seems like a fake company. I called and got a voicemail recording, and I couldn't even leave a message because the inbox was full.

I just really think I have made one of the biggest mistakes of my life. But it is good motivation to get the hell out of here and go to graduate school.

Does anyone know if I can quit now before I go to PSO and officially become an employee? I might just do it...

Claire said...

I finished my Americorps*VISTA term last week, and I have never felt more burnt out and devoid of any motivation to continue trying to help people. My VISTA site, a community center in Chicago, has hired me as a development person. The only reason I took the job was because I was too stressed out and exhausted to look elsewhere. I plan to quit as soon as I find something else-preferably a waitressing or bartending job.
If you want to feel worthless and exhausted, do Americorps. If you want to have an experience that inspires you never to work in nonprofit again, do Americorps.

DON'T DO AMERICORPS.

REGINALD said...

I have been serving for 7 months and here's my advice. If you are not good at managing money, look elsewhere. If you don't want to deal with government bureaucracy, look elsewhere.

Here's my advice for joining Americorps.

1. Choose your assignment wisely. Conduct as much research as you can on the organization that you will be working in. Call your supervisor (before you join) and have a long conversation about what you will be doing.

This will help you gage your supervisor's knowledge of the assignment.

2. Find a place to live.
Have your supervisor help you find a place to live. If your supervisor is competent and really wants you there, he or she will find a place for you to stay. This will help you assess your supervisor's ability while giving you a roommate that someone can vouch for.

3. Stay busy.
Buy an ipod and get a whole lot of music. You may not have access to TV. You will have been poorer than you've ever been in your entire life.You will need to keep yourself entertained. I also recommend getting a girlfriend/boyfriend or maybe a friend (with benifts). Having someone to vent to will help you get through the year. And having a special friend will help you relive stress and get a load off.

4. Don't quit. Serving one year as a VISTA will look very good on your resume and quitting may make you look indecisive and uncommitted to future employers (i.e. Dept. of Defense, Dept of Justice, FBI, etc.) You never know how this will bite you in the ass in the future. When you make a committment, it's better to fulfill your responsibilties.

Anonymous said...

our city forest is one of the most backwards places that could ever exist. the following blog has lots of helpful tips and hints into finding a great program, but be weary... this particular program will make it seem like you'll be getting all this "technical training"... they are sure to say it because they (the staff) are very inexperienced in dealing with motivated young individuals, and thus learning anything apparently is considered "technical training"

in this case, judge the book by its cover, it was a rough, experience, and felt rewarding only when it was over.

Anonymous said...

I am left with some very bitter feelings towards the whole program. My term was very disillusioning. My program had its own americorps director, who was the pet protegee of the director of the foundation that ran the program. Not only was she unprofessional to an extreme, her closeness to the foundation meant that a)there was no one to call her on it and b)there was no one to protect us from the shady and questionable things the foundation was doing. But since everything looked good on paper, AmeriCorps couldn't care less. My team was attacked for daring to air grievances in the supposedly confidential site inspection meeting.

The worst thing is, I had really believed in what I was doing. After it became clear, though that I was to do nothing more than to be a...rubberstamp for the program, a cover for the frankly unethical things going on... I left. Although I only managed to get out with some dignity because I documented the heck out of everything. The whole thing was swept under the carpet.

Anonymous said...

Some one asked if AmeriCorps can blackmail you if you quit early, which technically they can't. But if you do want to work for the federal gov't in the future you better reconsider your decision to quit. I am in my second year of AmeriCorps and my supervisor recently went to an AmeriCorps training where they had an AmeriCorp attorney there who explained AmeriCorps Volunteer rights. The attorney said point blank if you quit after you have been sworn in, it will count as a knock against your employment record with the gov't and exempts you from ever attaining employment with the federal gov't.

Another point the attorney made was to not work a side job. I know with the VISTA program it is illegal to hold other employment. AmeriCorps has investigators that will follow-up on suspicions of AmeriCorps Vistas working on the side and investigate it. They found a single mother with 4 kids working at Starbucks on the weekends to make ends meet and they kicked her out of her AmeriCorps Vista program, made her pay back every bit of her stipend and also said that she would never be able to work for the gov't. I would just be careful and make sure that you know your information before you sign up. If you research your placement site well and treat your service like a job you shouldn't have too many problems.

Anonymous said...

I was a VISTA and left my service 8 weeks early. I felt my circumstances were compelling. I had just had a baby and he had health issues. I was suffering with a little postpartum depression. In addition, my site supervisor was highly demanding and often very unprofessional (belittled me in front of others and gossiped to me about others). I was led to believe that I would get a prorated ed award but they changed their minds with some BS that my circumstances weren't compelling enough.
I joined the VISTA program in my 30's after I went back to school for a degree. I had worked in MANY organizations and had a successful Sales career with a Fortune 500 company. I have never dealt with so many ineffective, unprofessional, and petty people in my life. There was so much back-stabbing, gossiping, dodging blame and shifting fault to others, and deception. The nonprofit I worked for - was the worst. My site supervisor made me cry several times and I'm a tough person!
I stuck it out as long as I could but when my son had failure to thrive, I couldn't take it anymore.
I guess someone has to die for it to be compelling enough.
I wish I had read forums and blogs like this before joining. Joining was one of my biggest regrets - ever.

Anonymous said...

I got to tell you, I am agreeing with many of you here. I am in month 4 of my program and attempting to find work to get me out ASAP. I applied for the stipend and not the award so I don't really give a crap about leaving for something better. My boss, while relatively nice, is not a good communicator and has organizational issues ( Scheduling and not following through). I am really embarrassed for myself and for the students I supervise who suffer with me because of her lack of supervisory skills. I tried to put off joining, but this was the only thing going at the time, so in desperation I joined.

Don't do it if you can avoid it.. there are MUCH better programs for volunteering, such as Mercy Corps, which will help you go to grad school.

Anonymous said...

Has anyone felt pressured to quit?

Whatyeah said...

I started my term in September and am currently looking for alternative employment. The health insurance sucks, and will not cover supplies or treatment as I am a diabetic and was before joining (Pre-existing condition). The stress has been detrimental to both my physical and mental well-being, and I have received no reassurance from my program director or supervisor. I hope to be able to find other work soon. I have an alternate title beside VISTA (Service-Learning Consultant) that I am going to rely on to get a different job. As for a completed VISTA year being helpful on my resume, I find this suspect. I had previously completed an Americorps State program and all I ever get from employers is quizzical looks about what Americorps even is. I hope to be out soon. Any advice from others who quit?

skwirl said...

Wow. This entry is clearly a magnet for "AmeriCorps sucks" Google searches. I, for one, got a big 'ol grin out of it. Heather, if you ever consider a third year and want to learn about team leaderdom, send me an email.

Whatyeah - I'm sorry to hear about your difficulty with Seven Corners. For what it's worth, medications required for preexisting conditions are covered by the medication plan. And there's no co-pay for meds, which is unheard of in my experience. However, the initial doctor's visit to get that script for a preexisting condition would not be covered. It would be worthwhile to look into a sliding scale or free clinic for that kind of need.

In general, health insurance in the US sucks and I'm in a much, much, much worse health care position now that I'm done than I ever was in 3 years of AmeriCorps. Seven Corners was a significantly lesser evil in my experience. All of my billing problems were on the provider's side and Seven Corners was flawless otherwise.

I've heard equal stories of people being screwed by the health plan and people having their lives saved (literally) by it. The keyword is preexisting, of course, and that was pretty transparent to me up front, but not all sites are good at communicating it.

And that's the major problem with AmeriCorps. It's a huge bureaucracy and many of the people at the top believe that organization and direction should come from the bottom up, often from the otherwise needy grant-receiving organizations. For better or for worse, there's no Starbucks-like consistency, which results in the many bad experiences as seen above. On the other hand, there are many strong advocates and believers in CNCS's ranks and they will be your great ally if you can find them. I was lucky to have the ear of our awesome state office, who went to bat for me and my team members with force and conviction.

AmeriCorps and individual placement sites have a lot of problems, but they seemed no different to me than the organizational problems that plague all workplaces. The difference is that the frickin' Federal Government is paying idealistic (mostly young) people to build social leadership and progressive, nation changing capacity. That's amazing to me and makes a hell of a lot more sense than just about everything else my tax dollars pay for. I wonder how many people have a bad Corps experience only to go on to a real job that is just as bad later on?

I often had to remind myself that I signed up for a hard job. Generational poverty and the other ills of the world are not easy fixes. If they were, someone much smarter than me would have solved them a long time ago, because people have been trying to solve them for hundreds and hundreds of years. When I recruited, I stated that the job would be hard in many, many ways and many times, but sometimes that realism doesn't kick in despite the warnings.

The most successful AmeriCorps members in my experience are realists and optimists, who have some previous experience in living on a budget and working independently. Going in with eyes wide open and openly judging the placement site and site supervisor as much as the site is judging you during the interview is important. In that regard, it's just like any other job: buyer beware. The only reason not to quit from a bad experience, to me, would be if you believe in the organization and its mission, because they will not be able to replace you very easily and may lose their grant. But, if you truly believe in the mission, then that puts you in a really good place. Work the mission. That's probably what got you there in the first place. If your coworkers resist, then you're in a damn unique position as a changemaker who is there for a limited amount of time to try to create cultural and organizational change. Being a changemaker is also not an easy job. Nobody said it would be.

Jacqui said...

Dear Skwirl....
I came to this site following a link for doulas... When I read all of the bad comments about Americaorps I was really starting to re-think my desire to join the corps. I really appreciate your post about the corps and thank you for helping in my decision-making process!
I worked years in the inner-city with Volunteers of America and am an older American with a lot to offer. I am hoping to do so through Americorps!

ultraviolet said...

AMERICORPS IS SHADY. After doing 4 months of serivce I feel dissapointed and angry. The work load is crazy. You make 6 dollars an hour and becuase you are "volunteer" you have no rights. I was attracted to its unusual nature and what I found out was, I am an outsourced worker who is a U.S. citizen. What I mean by that is, becuase I paid from a nebulous taxpayer source, and my lame health insurance is build in to my labor I am a worker who is unattachted to anything on paper and therefore the non-profit I work with gets free labor and no acountability. Shame on people who employ Americorp workers. Don't let the wording fool you, your "service" is really just cheap labor.

Anonymous said...

DO NOT DO AMERICORPS.

Anonymous said...

True -if you want an experience that burns you out and gives you a bad taste in your mouth towards nonprofits...AmeriCorps is it. I completed my term last Aug and am still feeling the "shock" from the whole ordeal. I have worked professionally, but I was treated like a "slave" to service. I wanted to do things ...but most of my ideas were belittled and talked about amongst the office. Coworkers turned my "independence" into "competition" and whenever I asked a question...I was told I was out of place or not under the "chain of command". All in all...I hated my experience.

Anonymous said...

Do any of you who have had a negative experience have any ideas about getting the word out about this? I thought about trying to contact the americorp people directly, in particular to try and at least get the cruel stipend to be raised. Any thoughts?

Cherandherparasol said...

I'm currently doing Americorps and have never been so miserable in my life. What are my rights? Do I have any?

projectalice said...

Hey Cherandherparasol, if you are a VISTA you can't technically take another job outside the corps, but if they don't find out, then whatever, like if you do an under the table project you can just take the cash. There is a girl who quit where I work afte a month and all you have to do is fill out a form and do an exit interview. I am considering it myself. Some parts of it have been o.k....but I am not able to survive on the stipend in san diego, 485 every 2 weeks, that is like not even enough for rent. you can quit.

Anonymous said...

I'm currently doing VISTA as well and I'm absolutely miserable, it's nice to know that I'm not the only one struggling. I moved across the country for this job and feel totally lost and unsupported.

projectalice said...

Crimini. I am doing Americorps and I think it is way lame....but the program has such potential... where are you guys in the country? Does anyone know how to post info about whitch programs suck? Kind of like an online review, like YELP for americorp...the real version? That way we could tell the real deal for each program. Any computer savvy people have some thoughts?

Anonymous said...

I am looking into joining AmeriCorps and have heard something that unsettles me. My doctor told me she has filled out many forms for AmeriCorps and PeaceCorps and that she is asked to report any previous depression in the person applying. She believes that when the corps review the medical records she provides, if they see depression in your past they will not accept you into the program. To me this seems very unfair and unethical. I have struggled with depression in the past and am wondering if this will automatically block me from entering the program. Anyone know anything about this?

projectalice said...

About the depression comment, I am doing Americorp right now, and I doubt very much that they will be able to keep track of anything about you. I know they are super concerned with proving you are a U.S. citizen but they are not togethor enough to track your emotional, medical history.

Anonymous said...

Hey Everyone! I have been doing AmeriCorps since August and I have totally lost all motivation, but I am not going to quit. It is really refreshing to know that there are other AmeriCorps volunteers out there struggling. I went through the first 3 months of my experience thinking I was the only one having issues. I feel like my program has so much potential but my supervisor doesn't even have time to meet with me once a week. Initially they said that the ideal candidate would be a "self starter", which I consider myself, but there has to be a place to start. A lot of my good ideas have been shot down as well. I have been told "no" so many times in 6 months that I don't even want to ask for anything anymore. It is very frustrating. I need my motivation back, but I am afraid it is lost for good :( Anyone have any good ideas to spark motivation?

projectalice said...

You know...I am really serious about opening a website for underground thoughts about Americorp so we can help each other out. There is allot of us. If any one knows how to do it, let me know or I will just figure it out and post the address when I am done. TO the person who just posted.....I started in sep, and I feel like a slave. But look at it like this....it is better then food service, better then being a stripper and better then being allot of things. If you can, get something out of it and when you are done you can kiss the mofo's goodbye.

projectalice said...

p.s. we are half way done, that is like the middle of the week right? Plus given enough time....we are become revolutionaries and gain skills to take over . =)

Anonymous said...

projectalice: Thank you! It is so true that it's better than food service and stripping and tons of other stuff. It would be great to have an "underground" web site, but my web site IQ is way down in the single digits, lol.

We are halfway done! Praise the Lord!

projectalice said...

Yeah we ar half way done, I feel like a monk, I have no idea what I am doing. Maybe after this I will go to heaven or something.

Michelle said...

I see tons of posts about people being bored, not having anything to do, etc. I am having the exact opposite experience.....The place where I am serving was supposed to get two VISTAs, they only got me....so they took both VADs and pretty much stapled them together. I have two supervisors, one doesn't speak to me, never has time to do supervisions,one time refused to sign my time sheet because she was "too busy" and thinks I'm an idiot because she gave me projects that are so vague the VISTA supervisor can't even tell me what I do after reading my VAD. The other one is constantly giving me more to do and expects miracles. The other day she told me I need to fill out stat sheets (a stat sheet where I am is a minute by minute break down of your day and what you do all day). One of the girls I work with told me flat out that my supervisor thinks I'm not doing anything and that is why she wants me to do them. She expects me to do everything the last two VISTAs they had did, plus all the new projects for the other department as well. I feel like a slave not a volunteer.

Michelle said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
projectalice said...

To Michelle and everyone else, here is my email: cazzo_4u@yahoo.com. I want to figure this sh*&t out. Americorp is this subculture of amazing, smart, marginalized people who are manhandled more then the rest of the work force. I am trying to figure a way out of my "service" to be honest. But I want to figure out a way to either screen these "projects" that we get given, either with information on an underground website or something. This is so messed up. There are thousands of us going through a hard time, there must be a way to figure this out. As far as I can see, Americorps members tend to be bright, free thinkers who become slaves. This is so not o.k with me, if enough of us say something I think this could change. To anyone struggling out there to make their year into something good, I am with you, I know what you are going through and this is an old service program that needs to change.

Heather said...

Wow, I'm amazed at the response this post has generated!

I see that a lot of the dissidents are VISTA placed.

I have no experience with VISTA, just with AmeriCorps State programs. VISTA may well suck. I remember my Program Supervisor mentioning that at some point.

Are some of you NCCC Corps as well? There seems to be a lot of talk about moving cross country?

I didn't have to move anywhere - why in the world would you look for service opportunities outside of your community if you don't want to move?

Maybe I got "lucky" with my program, site, and various supervisors. I doubt I affected change on a major level, but I helped people out most days.

Each one reach one...

Michelle said...

I didn't move for my VISTA position, I do have a 30 to 40 minute commute each way though. I'm a "non-traditional" VISTA, I'm in my thirties, I have school age kids. I have almost ten years of experience in non-profits, so I didn't go into this expecting to save the world or enact huge changes....I just wanted to put my skills to good use in a way that would help others. I definitely do that, but if you look at the job description of what I signed up to do and what I do now......it's not anything remotely the same. I really thought I was the only one in my program having this type of issue, but when I talked to my program supervisor (not my site supervisor) she said that others are having issues as well....although not to the degree that I am. When we have our monthly meetings and we do updates, everyone else is doing what you would expect a VISTA to be doing.....I'm the only one who has to explain to my supervisor what I do because no one understands how it relates to VISTA.

Anonymous said...

"Americorps VISTA Sucks" "I Hate Americorps" Dittooooo....:(. Sucks HARD.

Anonymous said...

Does anyione know if you complain on your exit interview if they find out or anything? I Think there was a time differnt politicians had considered doing away with Americorps. Now that I am doing it, I wish they had. Eithor that or at least raise the education award. 4 grand, sweet that will pay for my text books.

20-something-woman said...

Okay, I have to comment because I too am an AmeriCorps and am thinking about leaving early. I definitely think there should be some type of website about AmeriCorps that is more prolific---it took a TON of digging through the Internet to even find this, to sift through all of the propoganda (funded by AmeriCorps)--there needs to be more honesty.
For the most part, my experience has been positive--it has been rewarding and I have learned a lot--but I have some serious qualms. I am also in a slightly different position than most because I had a few years of professional experience before joining AmeriCorps, and CHOSE to walk away from a job paying almost 4 times more because I was unhappy. However, here are a few things:
1. I would NOT recommend AmeriCorps, unless: you are a recent college graduate and can't get a job elsewhere; you are a service-minded recent graduate who was rejected by the PeaceCorps or Teach for America (both way better programs); OR you know the organization well, the employees there, and what exactly you will be doing.
2. The pay is absolutely outrageous. I have worked three, four jobs while doing my AmeriCorps job, ranging from part-time teaching to tutoring to waitressing to babysitting. I live in a cheap town, but there is no way I can live off $388 every two weeks. Total b*shit. The stipend hasn't been raised since Americorps started FIFTEEN YEARS AGO.
3. Non-profits, to make a sweeping generalization, are kind of lame. They are disorganized, lack technology, are underfunded, and often have weird hierarchies/lids on information (which is TOTALLY unnecessary--we're not dealing with the Pentagon here).

Whoever is spreading lies about a single mother having to pay back her stipend because she had a job at Starbucks, and those types of things--don't spread that kind of misinformation. You're discrediting people who have REAL and SERIOUS ideas about how to reform the mess that is AmeriCorps.

Heather said...

20-Something-Woman,

VISTA has totally different rules than other AmeriCorps programs, and VISTA was the one going after the woman who took a second job.

Anonymous said...

My AmeriCorps director, Emily Button, told me back in October that she was my "safety net" and "support system" She explained to me that a year in AmeriCorps would be very trying, and that it would be impossible to make it through without a support network.


When I was assaulted, I called her that night and told her about it. She said that if I needed anything I should ask. When she met with my site supervisor and me to fill out an incident report for AmeriCorps he recommended that I see a counselor. I told her that I was interested in this. She sent me an email, that had a link to one place to get counseling. I emailed them, but never heard anything back. That was the end of that.

Another AmeriCorps member, Craig, got stabbed in the arm. Sadly that is the end of that story. There wasn't much of any response to support him.

When he got robbed at gun point and beaten the week of christmas across the street from his apartment building he told our AmeriCorps director. She said she hoped he was allright and that she was sorry, etc. The rest of the AmeriCorps "team" didn't know it happened. So he spent the next week locked in his apartment, afraid and alone.

A month later he was robbed at gun point again. This time inside his apartment building, that our AmeriCorps program was leasing him, they had told him the neighborhood was fairly safe after all. So why not live there? Emily Button took him to the ER, then had him spend the night at her parent's house. The next morning she dropped him off at his apartment. That was the sum total of the support he received from AmeriCorps. He was actually called by the Director of US, Stephanie Buckley, two days after Craig was assault he was woken up by Ms. Buckley who demanded that he come to her office at 11am that morning. He explained that he was really tired, he hadn't been sleeping well because he was badly bruised and hadn't gotten his pain killers for his broken lip or the big lump on his head from where he'd been pistol whipped. She said "I don't know what to tell you , but you need to come to my office". He asked if she was going to pick him up, or send someone else to. He was a bit hesitant to wander through the neighborhood where he had been robbed at gun point twice in the past thirty days. She said regardless of the fact no one was going to pick him up, that he need to come to her office. He then told her off.

Luckily a AmeriCorps member overheard what happened to Craig, and about 5 of us were able to go over and spend time with him. We brought him groceries because he didn't have any and his wallet was stolen. We escorted him to the police station to follow up, and to the bank for a new card. We were happy to support him, but hoped AmeriCorps would be too.
That friday (a few days after his second robbery) another AmeriCorps member, Joey, (of the 5 of us who knew what happened, out of a group of about 30) asked "I would like to discuss what is being done by AmeriCorps to support Craig". Our AmeriCorps director became extremely defensive and said that question was "extremely inappropriate" to discuss the situation, that it was a private matter, that they were handling it, and it wasn't our job. She also explained that she had never had an AmeriCorps member get assaulted three times in a year.
About an hour later Joey received a phone call from Stephanie Buckley chastising him for his tone, and how it was wildly inappropriate for him to discuss the situation.

The following week when Craig met with Ms. Buckley and Ms. Button they told him that they wanted him to quit AmeriCorps and take a partial education award. They said that they couldn't secure his safety, and that his experience "was terrifying other Americorps members". Which is ridiculous because one I am positive they just made that up, and two they think its acceptable to punish the victim of a violent crime because it makes other people feel unsafe? Can you honestly imagine a sorority house asking a girl to quit because she was date raped? or a police department asking an officer who was shot to quit? Its asinine.

None the less Craig told them that he was intent on finishing his year.

When Craig expressed to Ms. Button that he didn't feel supported by AmeriCorps she argued with him saying "I took you to the hospital"

In that same conversation Ms. Button told Craig that she felt he did not have a support network in DC.
It seems contradictory to me for her to hold the positions that: she is his support network, she is adequately supporting him, he does not have an adequate support network.

No effort was ever made by AmeriCorps or US vets to possibly move him out of his neighborhood. Even though Ms. Button recognized that there was the possibility that he was being targeted.

Finally Craig did quit. He was pestered by US VETS because he hadn't re-embursed them for paying for his prescription. Yes, they did fill his prescription, then Joey and I took it to him. They bugged him for small things like that, and he finally had enough and quit.

Whatyeah said...

I finally quit my position last month after having a complete mental breakdown. I was lucky enough to have received a medical termination, but have been unable to find alternative employment. Although my situation was not nearly as bad as some, I can empathize with the lack of a support network. I have been thrust into the arms of the same community organizations I was once supporting, but to no avail. Basically, Americorps has left me high and dry as far as post-termination support. Why do they use us like this? Not only do I feel used, but I don't feel like any of the work I did has made any difference. Instead, I am placed into the same situation as the people that I was supposed to be helping.

Anonymous said...

What can I say except "thank you, thank you, thank you!" to all those who posted their traumatic AmeriCorps experiences. (Or should I say AmeriCrap).

I am in utter amazement and disgust that these non-profits who apply for AmeriCorps funding get to do whatever they want to their members; not only that, but, as the case is with my group, they allow members to traumatize other members without any repercussions or discipline.

AmeriCorps is a very screwed up system (to put it mildly) that doesn't disclose the true nature of its function: it is merely a funding umbrella and they don't enforce whatever rules they put on non-profits that get AmeriCorps funding.

Anonymous said...

If I could do it over agian I would never do americorps. I have such loathing for the non-profit I work for, I can't believe they accept slave workers and treat them like crap. They are increasing the number of americrops numbers guys, we have to figure out a way to network to talk about this. I am feel so sorry for the poor bastards who are coming on board next. I would rather do anything else.

Anonymous said...

The main factor in whether your year will be a good experience or not, is how you fit with your HOST SITE and site supervisor, rather than how you fit with VISTA in general.

Although you will hear a lot at the PSO about the overall mission of VISTA, once you begin, you will be spending the vast majority of your time being treated as a low-level intern ( or "slave" as some have put it in hyperbolic terms),at your host site.

Some VISTAs have a great relationship with the site supervisor, work collaboratively and are given enough responsibility and independence to develop their own initiatives. I haven't met any but apparently on another blog that is what some people say (the people saying that also happen to be AmeriCorps recruiters). But there are plenty of site supervisors who will treat you like their assistant or secretary, unloading busywork and data entry tasks on you, sabotage your effectiveness because they are threatened by you taking their job, try to micromanage you, be disorganized and unable to follow a plan of action, or a combination of any of the above. Keep in mind that depending on the size of your host site, your supervisor may have several people above him/her as well.

At the PSO you might hear that the statewide VISTA supervisor will help to remediate problems with site supervisors, but I have NEVER heard of them actually stepping in and setting an abusive supervisor straight. Once you get out there, you will get ZERO support from the VISTA superstructure, unless you count the emotional support of sharing you miserable experiences with other VISTAs in the same boat. The only real contact you will have with the higher ups in VISTA after the PSO is submitting lengthy quarterly reports. The best you can hope for is a transfer and good luck with that.

To put this in perspective, you have to think of VISTA as a foundation that supplies grants to applicants. Instead of just giving money, they give a person who is willing and legally allowed to work for less than minimum wage (which they cover). In order to obtain a VISTA the host site has to apply for a grant. To continue to receive a VISTA, they need to make their reports look good. The reports are always reviewed by the site supervisor before submission and have their evaluations of your peformance, but no section for you to evaluate them. Terrible sites can get their VISTA grants renewed, so long as they make it look good on paper. Organizations that have done great things with their VISTA sometimes don't get renewed because they don't have the resources or staff to pull someone away from a project to work on a quarterly report, so their reports end up looking shoddy and not reflective of the actual work being accomplished. This is all in spite of any conversations or e-mails with your VISTA statewide supervisor, EVEN when the host site has a terrible, but informal off-the-record, reputation among other VISTAs. If you want to leave your service with a reference, you will basically have to put up with a lot of shit, your only solace being that the position isn't permanent.

If you still doubt all the complaints on here, at least do you research on the HOST SITE. It wouldn't be a bad idea to contact other organizations who have worked in partnership with them to garner their opinions of the organization.(it will be hard to get an honest opinion, but you can read a lot from their tone and whether they are giving vague generic praise, or something more specific). Volunteering at the host site before you even apply will get you a better feel for what they do and how well organized they are. Ignore the AmeriCorps VISTA rhetoric for a bit and think of how the host site and the responsibilities of the job would fit your interests,and whether you would work there as an entry-level employee or paid intern. If you think you have a good feel for the site supervisor's personality, decide whether you would want to work with this person for the next year before you accept an offer. If you have a bad feeling about them, respectfully decline and keep on searching.

VISTA is just a way for non-profits to get cheap labor at less than minimum wage. The majority of VISTAs are fresh out of college with minimal experience and these host sites know it, so don't come in there expecting to be a consultant.

Anonymous said...

I hate to beat this dead horse, but my VISTA experience has been terrible. I just got pulled from my site because it was being investigated by the state for money laundering... So now I'm at a temp assignment, where they don't have anything for me to do, but I have to sit here anyway because I have to log my hours. We should really start a blog or something to warn people about VISTA.

Anonymous said...

yeah, there are goinng to be allot more Americrops. The site I work for just got this huge boost from Obama, so there will be a lot more people who can't find jobs who are going to do Americorps.Great, no jobs...just do civil service...that seems kind of sad. Vista is the worst it seems. I concur that there should be a blog to warn people about exactly what it is ogng to be like, some sites are so horrendous.

Mummblegans said...

I finished up my year of VISTA service in July 2008. Since that time I have been filled with overwhelming hatred for the Americorps program and the company I worked for. I can't imagine a more horrible experience. The company did not understand the VISTA program at all, even though, they were granted 6 VISTAs- 2 of which quit at 6 months and all the remaining VISTAs voiced serious complaints all of which were ignored. Incidentally, the next year, the same company was granted unlimited VISTAs, they weren't even required to provide position descriptions- just like they hadn't been required to provide position descriptions the year of my service. My site supervisor was crazy and when I arrived at my site at the beginning of my service she assigned me to projects I had never heard of nor agreed to do- projects. On the projects I was given, my duties comprised mostly of shipping out packages and direct service. I complained numerous times to the VISTA project coordinator and the executive director of the company. Both of whom refused to do anything about it and turned around and told partner organizations and coworkers that I was an idiot and a liar. At the end of the year, I complained to the CNCS state representative and sent her many emails to support my story. She questioned the VISTA project coordinator about it. The VISTA project coordinator, of course, denied knowing there was a problem at all, and my site supervisor and the executive director both claimed they thought I was happy and denied the allegations that they inferred I was an idiot. Although, the CNCS director acknowledged that I was forced to work on a project I didn't agree to and I was forced into direct service, her final decision was that since I didn't complain to her during the year and I didn't quit I must have been happy despite those problems. Oh, and I was also told that "since the organization ordered so many VISTAs making it an important contract for the project coordinator, it was worth their while to "work" with the company. The organization I worked for had VISTAs for two years before my year of service and still has VISTAs today.

Do not do VISTA, you will get screwed!

Anonymous said...

i'm at my PSO and just got offered another job making more and still doing good, what should I do?

Anonymous said...

take the job. NO one cares once you are done that you did AmeriCorps. It will not help you get a job. I think if you want to go to grad school it might help, but that is about it. I had to go into dept just to live on the slave wages. Take the job for the love of god.

Anonymous said...

Hi,

I have a quick question. I am planning on resigning from Americorps this week. I am in a State Corps program. I am more than half done. But the miserable working conditions, plus the fact that my supervisor uses my presence to dump his workload and sit around and do nothing...have made it unbearable. We don't get the respect a volunteer deserves, nor do we get the benefits a worker would get. I thought this would be an interesting and challenging service experience for a year, but am feeling nothing but exploited. I have reached out to my (non-site) coordinator several times, and have received absolutely no support or advice.

I am going to mail in a resignation letter to my site. Is there anything else I should be doing to officially quit? Is there a form? Should I notify anyone other than my site?

Thanks.

Anonymous said...

Hi,

I have a quick question. I am planning on resigning from Americorps this week. I am in a State Corps program. I am more than half done. But the miserable working conditions, plus the fact that my supervisor uses my presence to dump his workload and sit around and do nothing...have made it unbearable. We don't get the respect a volunteer deserves, nor do we get the benefits a worker would get. I thought this would be an interesting and challenging service experience for a year, but am feeling nothing but exploited. I have reached out to my (non-site) coordinator several times, and have received absolutely no support or advice.

I am going to mail in a resignation letter to my site. Is there anything else I should be doing to officially quit? Is there a form? Should I notify anyone other than my site?

Thanks.

Heather said...

Hi, last Anonymous post.

You'll want to CC that letter to your program coordinator. They will have exit forms they will likely want you to fill out. If you don't hear from that person, contact your state commission office.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Heather. Is the exit letter important for any reason? I know I won't be getting the education award. Would bad things happen if they never mailed it to me/i never filled it out?

Heather said...

Not properly exiting your AmeriCorps year can screw you for federal jobs in the future - it's just best to cover all your bases.

Joan said...

I actually just quitted AmeriCorps with a few months of my services. I even put it on my federal and state applications and I still have gotten a federal job offer. It doesn't matters if someone quits AmeriCorps. As long as a person has a good credit history and NO felonies, anyone can get a job with the government. AmeriCorps is "volunteering" not an actual "job". It doesn't count against you. I even asked the trainers at the PSO and they confirm what I'm stating. As long as you fit the government qualifications, you can get a job with the government. I just wanted to dispell that myth so people don't waste a few months to a full year of worthless service. Just for the record, the program with okay, but the supervisor I served undered was a narcissistic devil and I couldn't deal with her manipulations and bad mouthing me to the community.

Heather said...

The government quite obviously does not care if her employees have basic English SPaG skills, either.

"quitted" is not a word.

"Doesn't matters" is not a proper phrase.

Bottom line? Yep, apparently the government will hire anybody.

I said nothing about quitting AmeriCorps having an impact on obtaining federal jobs. ABANDONING said contract MAY have an impact. Just fill out the damn paperwork.

Jaime said...

I quit my Americorps stint halfway thru due to a medical condition. Luckily, my parents helped me on the insurance. I was in my late twenties, and had already started working in other jobs when I joined Americorps.


When I left, I was burnt out on non-profits and exhausted. The thought of being a "paid volunteer" with the workload we had was incredible.

Most of my co-workers where just out of college and a lot more optimistic than I was, mostly in their twenties. I knew the job was BS, and we should have been getting paid a LOT more. Our main projects were construction projects. I was a day laborer. Seriously? My host site was pretty good, but depressing. It was a homeless shelter.

My site supervisor was a great guy though, and did let me have half of the ed stipend. I do plan to use a little of it for graduate school.

As a whole though, Americorps really needs to be revamped. I can't believe they expect people to live on $200 a week. At least we got food stamps though. My site supervisor was at least a nice guy.

Bad experience for the most part. I wish they'd raise the rate above poverty level.

Jenn said...

Some of the comments here are just...ignorant. You people should have considered the cost BEFORE you joined, as the program advises all those who are thinking of joining. It's not a regular job, it's a year of volunteer service.


If there's anything to complain about regarding the program, it would be the lack of a decent health insurance policy. What Seven Corners offers is just terrible.

Anonymous said...

Hey Jenn, You are bitter and defensive, but then I guess there always has to be one in the crowd. Condolences on being the token hater on this forum, I think for the most part the people who post here are well informed and seeking an outlet for their frustration. Here is a thought....go away and hate on some one else, I am sure you have whole list of people you feel intellectually superior to, so have at it, I am sure eventually the sour disposition will go away

Heather said...

Dear Anonymous,

At least Jenn had the cojones to leave her name - and I agree with her. You know, the author of the post here?

If it wasn't spelled out to you that you'd be paid less than minimum wage and it wasn't a job, but a service year, then you were duped.

Your comment was pretty "hater" itself. May I suggest you take your own advice and "get over yourself?"

Anonymous said...

cool, I bail on this site. "jenn" ushered in a new burst of negativity and now Heather is jumping on her shoulders like a banshee. What is the point of going off on people who are having a hard time, who you will never met anyways. What are you both AmeriCorps drill sargents? Don't waste your time firing back I am not got read it anyways.

Anonymous said...

"I would like to create positive influence in my community, have a hand in changing the world, and make a difference to those around me. I'm passionate about serving youth, counseling those with addictions, feeding the hungry, and educating others on the importance of caring for our environment. I feel that AmeriCorps is the best avenue for me to -get my feet wet- regarding the change I want to be."

When I began my AmeriCorps Service year, the above statement was my motivation. I wanted to "be the change". During my service year I tutored 35 GED students, watched the first male in an immigrant household graduate highschool, Mentored 100's of kids battling with addiction, walked with two girls as they forgave their rapist, planted 450 native plants along a salmon habitat, restored a historical site, built a single mom a house, raised $13,000 for a skate park, Built a community dog park, helped foster and home 250 unwanted pets and fulfilled my desire to SERVE!

Those of you who have served with AmeriCorps, and have disliked your term of service. The BLAME lies on your own head. If you were sitting around doing nothing, why didn't you go OUT THERE and Find some one who needed help?

Your service year is what YOU make it. You can choose to use your hands for service or for blogging to the world about how you failed the rest of us by NOT making this experience all that it can be.

Meanwhile, I will serve my community and enjoy every minute!

Anonymous said...

I'm pissed at the AmeriCorps VISTA program. I served a year term and worked hard. I was doing direct service from the beginning and working on additional projects for the legal aid office. Not only did the treat me like an uneducated kid. After I was unemployed and filed for unemployment, I find out that I DO NOT qualify because VISTA are excluded from receiving unemployment. Instead we get the stipend or ed award. I can't use that to live off when I don't have a job. The stipend and ed award aren't unemployment benefits. I think this proves how the government isn't working for us even though we volunteered for them and our communities. I wondering with the economy how many more people will volunteer and then not be able to find jobs or get unemployment.

OUT IN FOUR DAYS said...

my americorps/VISTA experience lasted exactly four days.

the first day of service i was told that i would be the sole back up to the front desk at lunch and that i would be her back up for all of her tasks "whenever she was away" from her desk or the office.

i was also told that i would be back up for all staff members and that i would not only be answering the general phones as primarly back up, but also i would be filing, inputing data to a database (as part of backing up the front desk person), and in general, i was to be a secretary.

to top it all off, the front desk person was my supervisor, something they did not tell either me or VISTA about. she had been there less than a month. the director was supposed to be my supervisor; he'd been there 13 years.

when i telephoned my leader to ask if this was what i took one year out of my life to do for this organization - be a temp secretary - she emphatically said "NO!" she asked me to speak with the director.

on tuesday, i spoke with the director. he got angry, made a rude comment to me, and called/emailed VISTA who fully supported me. the director then sent out emails to staff telling them that i was not to answer phones or be a back up to staff and all jobs had to go through him first.

on wednesday, i had more oversight from the front desk person and no contact with the director.

on thursday, after being in touch with three separate people with VISTA and the program i was working for, i came in contact with the director for the first time since day two, and he failed to acknowledge my presence, did not make eye contact, and in general, acted as if i was invisible.

on thursday evening i contacted my leaders and resigned. i was not going to spend a year trying to understand or figure out the psychodrama going on with this director in regard to his very qualified VISTA worker.

on friday, i went into the office, gathered up my things, and left the building.

since that time none of my leaders have contacted me; indeed, one of them took it upon herself to fill out my americorps exit form and then lock it from further input. she decided the reason i was leaving was that i was "dissatisfied with the program" - leaving the impression that it was MY problem and not that of the DIRECTOR OF THE PROGRAM who could not and would not understand that the VISTA is there to build capacity, not fill in with jobs no one else wants.

i would NOT recommend that anyone apply to VISTA. from what i can gather, i am not the only one who has faced similar problems. thank goodness, this was in my home city and i didn't travel across country to my VISTA service.

i recommended that this program NOT be given another VISTA. i doubt that my recommendation will be taken.

Anonymous said...

Ok Ive been in my americorps place for almost 9 months and my supervisor sucks my job has nothing to do with actually making a difference and it is nothing like the description i had applied to. the money isn't enough for some one in china to live on. Come on people Americorps is a huge joke. I can't believe i was so dumb that I thought that this was a good idea.

Anonymous said...

Ya know you all can bitch as much as you'd like but even though I don't like what's going on at my place and I may not wanna stay in it I said that I would and my word is all that is keeping me here. I'll just suck it up and deal with whatever I have to so that I can at least say that I completed my commitment.

Anonymous said...

I've been serving with AmeriCorps since Sept. 1. I could not be happier with my site, but AmeriCorps does feel like a front for cheap labor. My team leaders are very well-intentioned if very unreliable, so everything has been a half-ass committal. The "trainings" so far have been a joke and come off as hoop-jumping so they can say they're developing leadership. We have to do reports on laughably awful books our leaders choose. The Civic Engagement curriculum is airy and unsubstantial and the Service Learning Projects seem designed more as outlets for creative frustrations rather than a genuine learning experience. I say stop adding hoops for us to jump through so that AmeriCorps can legitimize itself beyond what it is.

I say call it what it is. Many of the sites we are placed at are very strapped for cash (i.e. schools in low income areas). The service we get a meager stipend for doing is something a lot of these sites wouldn't otherwise have access to. We meet a need for these sites that would probably remain unmet. It sounds like some people have nothing to do while some people are way overtaxed, so obviously this experience varies widely. I'm not trying to speak for everyone here - I only say "we" as sort of an imaginary collective - but I do think I will take something positive out of this. I just wish any training they provided us with was either a) site-specific or b) training in volunteerism that was actually beneficial.

Also, why are people being berated for leaving anonymous posts on a blog called "AmeriCorps Sucks""I hate AmeriCorps"? I communicate with my supervisors, but there's somethings I'm not going to say to them...

Heather said...

The blog isn't entitled "AmeriCorps Sucks". It's entitled "The Muse Has Left the Building".

Also, the original POST isn't about AmeriCorps sucking, it's about honoring your commitment. That may be why people are upset about all the anonymous comments.

I agree that people need a place to vent, which is why I've left comments open and the option to be anonymous open.

Anonymous said...

Let me guess, original blogger, that you have never worked somewhere before where people are actually productive in accomplishing goals they set out to.

Heather said...

Not QUITE sure what you mean by that, Anonymous, but I completed two full terms of AmeriCorps and implemented at least two lasting changes/programs/ways of doing things at my service site.

Not only that, I advocated for patients on a daily basis. I call that productive - not sure what your definition is.

Mia said...

I'm in my fourth month of being in AmeriCorps State and National program, and I'm miserable. I'm supposed to be teaching literacy but instead I'm running the program and the program is a failed one.

The job was grossly misrepresented to me several times. There is too much work to be done for one person, part time. I only get paid $200 every two weeks, and my position makes it almost impossible to pick up a second job although I'm allowed to if I want. In all seriousness, at this rate, I'm never going to be able to afford to go back to school to finish my BA degree.

Will I quit? Maybe, if my next idea to run the program goes by the wayside. It's not worth my poor health to continue to do so.

Anonymous said...

F**** Americorp.. I am doing state and national program. I have nothing to do at my site, well, Im supposed to manage 30 pus kids everyday, and have amazing ideas everyday. my supervisor never has time to meet with me. on top f that, I'm living in an unsafe area. literally a month ago, a girl got killed inthe complex. kmy roomates got excited by this shit. My americorp manager told me if I dont feel safe, let her know and shed help. when i told her id like to move, she said if i couldnt cope to just go home. my other supervisor is so lazy, she never gave us our insurance cards, and I was told to quit. So I am. 4,00 for school, or my life. and my site supervisor never wanted me to come in the first place, and treate me like a secretrary, not an euqal. Im listening to the fourth or fifth cop going by in an hour. if i dont leave i am afraid my soul and spirti with die. as it is, I hate non profits now, and never want to teach. EVER!

Anonymous said...

I find it intersting that people are concerned here with sticking out a commitment. what about the commitments made to use, that we would get help, trainging, support. instead most of us find ourselves doing shit or nothing at all, to accumulate hours, when we can be getting paid for more. this is volunteering. VOLUNTEER to me, means when it turns depressins, when we feel let down, sad, angry tired, then our sup. is not doing their job, doesnt care about us, and will not ever start to treat us better. this means, we deserve, we have the obligation to stick to ourselves and find better. It Volunteer, not a lifetime commitment. and my quality of life involves me taking care of myself the best way I can.allowing myself to be mistreated for a year for the sake of my ability to stick to my word when others do not is misguided and not idealistic. not at all. its sad. I feel so pathetic where I am. I rely on public transportation, I am on food stamps, and I have never been so tired and frustrated. I wish I had never heard of Americorp. all it is is approved slavery. SERIOUSLY.BELIEVE ME. ITS NOT WORTH IT. its so big,that any company can say they need volunteers, and use people in need. it isnt right. ITS SLAVERY. We can, we can WE CAN find better.

Melissa said...

I will totally admit that part of my problems with VISTA are that I had a cushy job before and became a prima donna. That said, I suggest that those of you with lots of free time leverage that to teach yourself something: a foreign language, how to knit, or in my case, several computer languages. I already am getting job offers, but I'll wait it out for the sake of my reputation.

Anonymous said...

I want to make a difference. I have only been here a month but it is hell so far. Reputation? Commitment? In this country the only time those words are held against you is if you are poor. If your rich or a politician, no gives a crap. Unfortunately, I am poor. I have no idea what to do. I am considering quitting however. Not because I lack motivation (that will never happened, I have survived too much to be demotivated by a bunch of petty gossip and disorganization) but because there are actual people out there dying right now that I could be helping, people I could be helping right now, dammit. Someone please explain to me how pushing papers and dealing daily with my supervisors inflated ego has anything to do with making real change?
-D.

Anonymous said...

I'm in my fifth month at Americorp, and I would have to say that my experience has been hit and miss. My supervisor is very directed and has some great ideas, even if he is a bit detached from the programs. Some of the kids I'm teaching are great, others make me want to go home,cry, and then get a vasectomy.

The real problem is ,that like most of the other posters, the number of hours a week I would be putting in was horribly understated. I was quoted as 15 hours a week at max during the school year and more during the summer in order to fulfill my term.

Last semester I worked on average 37 hours a week, to which my director told me to suck it up and take it.

I nearly failed out of school because of all the time I had to devote to "Service Projects", "Leadership Training", and "Staff Meetings". On top of that our director has no connection whatsoever to the programs she administers, she makes 50k a year just for filing paperwork and making up spreadsheets about how I spend each minute of my day.

I didn't sign up for this, I signed up to help people who are in the same problem areas that I was when I grew up. I'm quitting in January so that I can graduate and then do some real good for the world. Never Again.

Anonymous said...

So, I was the one who posted on DEC. 18th. Things got really bad with my supervisor. I came to realize that she is not capable of her job. The problem is that before I came to that realization I had to step back because I tend to take things personally and assume that it must be me and that maybe I do actually suck at my job,etc. But, talking to supportive people helps and going over in my mind the excellent resume I have, the incredible references, the fact that those that I work with like me but have issues with my supervisor as well puts things into perspective. I am lucky. My recruiter and other VISTA's are AMAZING. Being in rural SOuth Dakota during an intense winter by myself has made it really difficult but they have always been there for me and have understood my need to talk sometimes. As a result, I feel a since of mild loyalty to my recruiter and so rather then quitting I asked to be transferred (you CAN do that!) to another position she is in charge of as well. It went through and I leave in a week. I can't wait to get out of here. I will also be around 3 other VISTA's. The only problem is that I keep getting this incredible emails of other AmeriCorp opp's. that I would LOVVVEE to do as well and it is taking all of my will to not quit and going running to those positions. Has anyone looked at programs with the California Con. Corps? It's sweet! Lots of camping, etc. I don't know, I still hate lots of things about AmeriCorps but I also love lots of things about it. Most of the problems with VISTA have to do with the fact that the nonprofits that we are placed at can SUUUCCK, seriously. If you are placed in a really isolated place, all it takes is a frustrating supervisor to ruin it for you because they are your primary contact. Also, having been someone who has always lived in real poverty. I still struggle a bit with the teeny tiny amount of money given for two reasons. Rural SD is really expensive to fly out of and we are expected to pay for traveling expenses up front and then get paid back, that was difficult. I had a couple weeks there were I could just barely afford food. I had to go to the food bank, I had no other choice.

Hmmm...we'll see what happens. I am giving it more time. Recruiters: take care of your VISTA's because seriously, my recruiter is the only reason I stuck around long enough to realize I wanted to stick around....if that makes sense....

-D.

Anonymous said...

Details. Get them. Make sure you know what you will be doing during your term. Likewise, make sure this will fill a full-time position. Idle time is the devil.

Anonymous said...

My boss is all over the place, very disorganized and extremely forgetful. It's at the point where I honestly believe she has early onset Alzheimers (no joke). She'll ask me a question, I'll give her an answer, and she literally asks me the same question the next hour. Then she'll act annoyed with me as if I am a bad communicator. WTF! It came to the point that I just mainly choose to communicate to her through email (to cover my own behind), so I find myself resending her emails constantly. Also, when ever we have an event, she talks to me like a moron. I have years of experience, and this isn't my first event. We have had more than 10 events with the same exact set up, and she still talks to me like I don't know what I'm doing. I also find that she expects me to be her secretary/ personal assistant. She is extremely selfish, and if she isn't spending time making herself look good, then me or another VISTA is. In my area there are 4 VISTAs, but she is such a bad boss, we find ourselves picking up the pieces for something she screwed up or forgot about, and she has no direction. She even sensed that we were unhappy twice, and both times she simply said things will get better- howevr, it wasn't genuine. She is scared to be fired because the majority of the VISTAs have disliked the site and have either left or filed a complaint. Ugggh!!!

Patricia said...

The above post could have been made by me, although it wasn't. I have a similar situation with my site supervisor. I also, hate my project and would love to quit. I am just a little over half way through. Aug. 9th 2010 to be exact. I agree with the majority of voices here. I think there are probably a handful of projects that are worthwhile. I am not involved with one of those..
God help me. Yes, I've talked to everyone and there is zero help, it's laughable.

Anonymous said...

Everyone here keeps commenting about how their Supervisor sucks. Well, its non-profit, get used to it. Non-profits are always all over the place and generally the people running them are looking to see how this can make them look. I am in the AmeriCorps right now, and not only does my Supervisor suck, but so does pretty much everything about it. The only thing that keeps me going is I think I am a real role model for the kids I work with, and thats what helps me fall asleep at night.

Patricia said...

I wouldn't mind the Supervisior except I have nothing to really hold onto that helps me sleep at night. I would love to be helping kids or doing something I could be passionate about. The only thing that is getting me through is the notion that I only have four months left here, then I will never look back. Come on August!

Anonymous said...

I did NCCC a few years ago and had a positive experience so I thought doing a State program would be great. Wrong. I work in an office doing bitch work and my program director (I guess is what she is) treats everyone horribly and nothing is ever good enough for her. As of today I feel like I'm done after relocating to a new state just for this job. I really like AmeriCorps or at least NCCC for that matter and I'm hopeful that I'd be able to find a project that's more fitting, but is this it? Am I done? Did I use up my last AmeriCorps opportunity with this stupid project that I've been at for just a couple months? How would that work?

Anonymous said...

This whole thing with AmeriCorps week coming up reminds me of how I wish I was in one of the good AC programs. You see all the optimistic videos and websites and everything, and it's like . . . wow, that's the reason I joined -- to really help people in need, to fulfill myself as an idealist -- but that's not what I'm getting out of the experience at all.

Thank god for this blog being here. I bookmarked it and check it every so often for validation.

Jen said...

I am yet another voice of dissent. My site is staffed largely by AC members because it is not run well enough to pay employees. My supervisor does not suck; however, she works about 60-70 hours a week and there is only so much she can do to help me.

Most people here have more than 40 hours of work a week, myself included. I feel exhausted. My executive director does not even know what I do. She is rarely around and getting anything done requires her approval. I am an atypical VISTA - I was brought on because I possessed both skill and experience in my field. I really want to use my skill set to benefit others. However, my advice has been largely ignored. I have three months left and I am trying to create something that will be sustainable after I leave and I was basically told not to bother. They intend to have someone (most likely without any of my skills) figure it all out once they get there. I am required to use my own computer for work and it is starting to burnout. I was given RAM to install, but the are asking for it back.

Some VISTA members have great sites and great experiences. I am not one of them. I knew what I was getting into (for the most part but that's a different can of worms), but I've really come to resent the pay because of the amount of work I am expected to do. I've worked until 1am, worked 12 days without a day off and the "comp time" I was promised basically took a back-burner to all the work that needs to be done "ASAP". I am doing the jobs of 2-3 people. My work is not sustainable. I officially feel like my time is being wasted and for what often amounts to $4.50 an hour that is just terrible.

I'm not saying not to join. What I am saying is look into everything possible before you leap. Your site is luckier to have you than you are to have it. It is totally within your rights to want a good fit. If you are replacing another VISTA, see if you can ask them questions about their experience. Volunteer at the site prior. I should mention that my boyfriend also did a year as a VISTA and really enjoyed it. It can happen, it just didn't happen for me.

Anonymous said...

I am currently serving as a VISTA, and while many others seem to be in much more dire situations--I have yet to be stabbed, but someone in my neighborhood was shot last year--I still feel the general agony.

One of the biggest problems that I and the other VISTA serving here seem to be having is a lack of knowing what the fuck is going on. We are 8 months into the year-long endeavor, and our VAD has been pretty much complete for the last 3 months. Often we will be told to just go out and explore the field and experiment. This would be great, and would help in turning much that I learned in college into actual experience, but 90% of the time as soon as I mention that I have been networking with local banks or we have been putting together a resource fairs, we get a look of dismay. "Oh, well, maybe you shouldn't do that..."
Apologies, I'll stop doing the things that I signed a year of life away for. Would you rather have me twiddle my thumbs until I get carpal tunnel?
Actually, no. They would rather treat me as though I am a personal assistant who jumps out of bed each morning ready to lick envelopes, make coffee and file papers. This, certainly, is what I signed up for! Why would I want to spend time helping those in the community who are in need?
Ah, vent.

I have decided that I need to do other things with my time here to make it seem worthwhile. This ranges from learning on my own to volunteering at other organizations. I could devote all of my time and energy on my "host" but all I would do is make a bunch of documents that will be ignored the day I leave. (And I will be leaving, somehow there seems to be an air about that I may want to work here when I am done.)

Having everyone here be nice at least saves me from the drama many have to survive, but just because people are nice doesn't make them good to work with/for.

I also don't like how I was told that I would be given health insurance and wouldn't have to worry about my student loans this year. Uhhh, not true on either account. We are given a health care program that doesn't recognize pre-existing conditions (yes, the government does this bs too) and I have spent days being hassled by idiots from student loan telephones trying to explain to them that I am not rolling in the dough.

I think the most important thing to remember is that if you sign up for this you will be a benefit for those you work for much more-so than you will benefit. Make sure that you research where you will be serving, and do not jump into the first program that offers you a spot.

Well, my rambles and rants have taken up most of my lunch-period.

...sigh

Heather said...

Forebearance on your student loans is one of the biggest perks for the program. Somebody dropped the ball on your paperwork for that, and you should find out whom.

Anonymous said...

Right....if you have federal loans. Private loan companies = not so kind. No matter if you sorted it all out and talked to ALL your loan companies before you joined the AC program, you can't stop you loans from being sold and coming under different deferment/forebearance terms. Loan companies don't give a shit if your selling your limbs to pay them--as long as they get paid.

I've also gotten saddled with a $250 bill from the so-called "health care benefit." What a joke. I've been in appeal on the claim denial for 3 months, and I had to start paying on it. Never mind that my doctor ordered the tests as part of my one-time "covered annual exam."

Plain and simple: Americorps is made to look appealing so the incumbent will unknowingly sign a year of their life away to do pointless, free labor for some non-profit that shouldn't have gotten funded in the first place.

But that'a whole other can of worms.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this post. It's helps to know that others are having a similar experience with AmeriCorps. Overall, I didn't do this for the money, so I'm not upset about that part of it. It's not great, but it is what I expected going into it.

What is so, so, so frustrating about AmeriCorps for me is the waffling back and forth between having no responsibility and then being expected to run a whole program. The disorganization is overwhelming. The people are no picnic either. The people at my site range between accepting me and acting as if at don't exist at all. It's a hell of a way to live. This has been the most challenging and unsettling year of my life.

I am making the most of it, I'm am not discouraged from working in the nonprofit or social services sector, actually I'm motivated by it because I see all of the disorganization and the changes that need to occur to make it better. But, I can tell you this, it's crazy some of the things I've seen working for a year in Brooklyn. I could write a book about all of the madness that goes on in AmeriCorps. If you want to have an experience that toughens you up go into AmeriCorps... otherwise definitely keep your distance!

needs advice said...

I'm a lowly liberals arts student who's broke and needs a summer gig. I also have aspirations of teaching. Now, I was recently accepted into the americorps summer day camp program, however, I also got a callback from a summer camp that's not non-profit in another state that pays like twice as much as americorps, but starts three weeks after americorps. If i had my druthers, I'd take the americorps job for the first three weeks and then go to the other camp. I feel as if this is morally wrong, but this post makes me feel as if Americorps sucks anyway. I need a little advice here. If i take both jobs, what will be the consequences of quitting the Americorps program so early??? Can I get away with just one stipend and leaving it at that?

Andrea Michigan said...

I NEED YOUR HELP
Hi, I am an Americorps Vista who is in the same situation as all of you, I hate my job, Its a complete insult to my intelligence.
I'm stuck with nothing to do for 32 hours of my work week. I'm in the midst of an article on the issue, hopefully this will bring to light the issues surrounding the VISTA community.
I am focusing strictly on the VISTA community in Wisconsin.... PLEASE PLEASE e-mail me at MichiganAndrea5@gmail.com and tell me about your story, I need your help....together we can make a difference

Andrea Michigan said...

I NEED YOUR HELP
Hi, I am an Americorps Vista who is in the same situation as all of you, I hate my job, Its a complete insult to my intelligence.
I'm stuck with nothing to do for 32 hours of my work week. I'm in the midst of an article on the issue, hopefully this will bring to light the issues surrounding the VISTA community.
I am focusing strictly on the VISTA community in Wisconsin.... PLEASE PLEASE e-mail me at MichiganAndrea5@gmail.com and tell me about your story, I need your help....together we can make a difference

Awholeheepoftrouble said...

I need some questions answered. I am considering Americorps Vista. ONLY! For the following reason. The reason being is I have been told that Americorp Vista will reward you after a year of completion with a non-competitive federal government job deferment valid for one year. Is it true.
Question #2: On day one of your arrival at Americorps Vista what would that have you do?
Question #3: Is the living stipend for you to do whatever the heck you want with it? Or should one use it wisely?
Question #4: Are you place with other people that are fresh off the boat into the Americorps Vista program?
Question #5: Can i just sit around for one year at Americorps Vista and still get that end of the year stipend?
Question #6: Anyone consider telling there supervisors how you felt?
Question #7: If I am disatisfied and wish to leave, how do i go about leaving? and how do i get all that type of information before i get there.

I will try and post more questions i will want answered as time goes on. tyvm guys.

Anonymous said...

Full time volunteer? Sounds like some self-aggrandizing bullshit for rich kids.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

Do NOT join just for the non-competive status or other "benefits". It's a load of B.S. they use to make living in poverty for a year sound appealing, or at least worth it. It's not. You could make more working retail and look for a real job with benefits at the same time. And if you're joining Americorps just for the end-of-service benefits, think twice. If you get a job offer or want to go back to school that requires you to leave even a week early, you won't get ANY of the education award or the end of service stipend that you've spent your year earning.

Heather said...

Actually, that's incorrect. As long as you complete your service hours, most programs will not have an issue with you leaving early. If you haven't completed your contracted hours with a week to go, you have more problems than going back to school or getting a job offer.

And I'm still floored that this is getting responses after three and a half years.

djfrankv said...

Hi, I just started a Americorps VIP project in California, Im 4 days into the program and not happy, I was on unemployment before, my question is does Americorps report to the Unemloyment department? Id like to get out of this program and continue to recieve benefits, I have yet to fill a timesheet?

Anonymous said...

I'm seven months into my VISTA year and I can relate to much of what's been said on this board. I've felt SO frustrated with everything lately because I feel like the only person who's benefitting from my efforts right now is my supervisor. He's constantly "sharing" his workload with me, then asking me to fill out all these reports on the projects I'm supposed to be doing but don't have time for because I'm too busy doing HIS job. He doesn't give a flip about fighting poverty, he just cares about making himself look good to his superiors.

Like most of you I joined to make a positive difference and help people. I didn't sign up to make $200 a week while doing the same jobs my coworkers are doing, only getting paid 1/5 the salary.

I'm going to do my best over my remaining months to make the best of the situation and try to make some tangible difference; I believe the heart of AmeriCorps is in the right place but the program definitely needs work.

Anonymous said...

I'm seven months into my VISTA year and I can relate to much of what's been said on this board. I've felt SO frustrated with everything lately because I feel like the only person who's benefitting from my efforts right now is my supervisor. He's constantly "sharing" his workload with me, then asking me to fill out all these reports on the projects I'm supposed to be doing but don't have time for because I'm too busy doing HIS job. He doesn't give a flip about fighting poverty, he just cares about making himself look good to his superiors.

Like most of you I joined to make a positive difference and help people. I didn't sign up to make $200 a week while doing the same jobs my coworkers are doing, only getting paid 1/5 the salary.

I'm going to do my best over my remaining months to make the best of the situation and try to make some tangible difference; I believe the heart of AmeriCorps is in the right place but the program definitely needs work.

Anonymous said...

I'm seven months into my VISTA year and I can relate to much of what's been said on this board. I've felt SO frustrated with everything lately because I feel like the only person who's benefitting from my efforts right now is my supervisor. He's constantly "sharing" his workload with me, then asking me to fill out all these reports on the projects I'm supposed to be doing but don't have time for because I'm too busy doing HIS job. He doesn't give a flip about fighting poverty, he just cares about making himself look good to his superiors.

Like most of you I joined to make a positive difference and help people. I didn't sign up to make $200 a week while doing the same jobs my coworkers are doing, only getting paid 1/5 the salary.

I'm going to do my best over my remaining months to make the best of the situation and try to make some tangible difference; I believe the heart of AmeriCorps is in the right place but the program definitely needs work.

Anonymous said...

Yikes, sorry for the triple post...

Anonymous said...

I found this by googling VISTA.I am SO glad people are talking about this. I joined VISTA in Aug 2008 near and lasted until Feb 2009. I spent my entire days, minus weekend trips as a glorified desk slave for a uncaring and manipulative woman who was technically younger then me and less experienced. I was 29 at the time and thought that being a Service Learning coordinator sounded great.

The catch? My students didn't do service much, I spent most of my time filling out timesheets for them, Americorps trainings did nothing, and If I had not gotten foodstamps, I would have only been able to pay rent ( $420 a month) and would have starved. When I complained to my super, they said I would get a campus meal plan, then said I would NOT get a campus meal plan despite working FT on campus and gave me gift cards instead. After rampant absenteeism from my supervisor, harrassment, and lies about me, I quit. I am still friends with my Americorps VISTA coordinator, who understood my position and now also feels that she was manipulated by the state office that hired her.

Anonymous said...

I just started a National program and I am already praying for July so I can leave. My site supervisor is a self-centered jerk, and is making my life a living hell. I would have known this had I interviewed in person rather than on the phone. DO NOT do a phone interview, you won't know as well what you're getting into. The organization seemed wonderful from the outside, but the clients all seem confused and most do not receive the help they need due to technicalities. On the upside I am loving all the community training and resources that have been made available to me. I only wish I could represent a more respectable organization when I attend them.

Anonymous said...

I know this sounds like quite a chore, but when you're doing your research on the organization you'd like to serve with, you might want to seek out some previous or current clients (if possible). They can tell you a lot about the organization and its level of organization, professionalism, etc.

Anonymous said...

I am so happy to have found this blog, although it was written ages ago!

I have a lot of the same problems as a lot of the other people here. I'm a VISTA who started in July. I work for a state government office and there are a lot of interesting, beneficial things about my job. I'm actually learning quite a lot...
...including how long it takes for government to get anything fucking done.
I was also very very happy there until we got a state member who can do direct service. To be completely frank, it seems that my project sees her as more valuable than me because she can answer phones and do other direct service things...meanwhile, I'm asked to do research online...which often leads me to job search websites...which makes me wanna cry.
In my work, I don't feel like I'm able to use my talents. I just sit around making spreadsheets. I don't see any results from what I do (it ends up in the attorney's hands and they just sit on it for months...I don't have months. I wanna see a difference NOW).
I think that the worst thing for me right now is that I joined VISTA in my home state because I fell in love with someone here the summer before my senior year. Unfortunately, I didn't get a project in his city (my own fault--should have just gotten a job there in the first place) and while I'm only 115 miles away now, my measley stipend and my fuel use isn't matching up very well. I miss him all week and can only see him on weekends. I look for jobs and apartments in his town, only to remind myself that this will not happen for another 8 months.
He's never seen me so miserable. I've never been this miserable. Last weekend, he asked me why I don't quit. I'm afraid to quit because I've never quit anything before--but can I do 8 more months of this?

Anonymous said...

wow...i found this website by accident and appreciate all the comments. my position has been alright for the most part. My site supervisor is "ok" (she's a weird combination of being helpful and distant at the same time). I actually got a real office (some of my fellow AmeriCorp folks practically in the basement). I haven't been regulated to a secretary role (making photocopiescoffee etc.) I'm actually in a professional role head of one of the my site's programs. Yet, three months into this i feel stressed and overwhelmed and sometimes wonder if I did the right thing signing on for this. I try to look at the bigger picture, but it is hard dedicating your life to "poorness" lol. I mean I guess it's a warning sign when a orginazation actually TELLS YOU to sign up for food stamps...that's how low wage you are going to make! Going back to my site supervisor...she is better than some of the folks i have read about on here! However, I do feel like at times she is trying to "squeeze" all the work out of me as she can...as my position used to be primarly held by graduate assistants...who are only allowed to work very part time hours. I am required to do a 40 hour week, so she's been trying to "catch up" on some things that got put on the back burner...you do feel like an unappreciated slave at times. They know they got ya! Everyday I have mixed feelings about this AmeriCorps stuff. I think also too i'm a "non-traditonal" as I am older in my 30's and sometimes feel I'm too grown to be putting up with this bull mess...but at the same time I try to just suck it up. *sigh*

Anonymous said...

I am in Americorps VISTA right now and this would be my last and final time i can do americorps. I joined again because i couldn't find work and i feel and understand all who have joined. i still debate if i should quit, all i do is watch you tube videos and read information on the internet. i am even writing this post as my supervisor is 2 feet away :) anyhow, there is a lot of work involved with this program. I enjoyed building houses with habitat for humanity when i first joined and then after that it was boring. also i have been able to stay in the area where i live each time i have joined americorps. may Christ give you strength and hope the best.

Anonymous said...

I'm an Americorps VISTA serving in a very unique, rural, isolated community and this is the first year of the VISTA position. My VAD is littered with some awesome objectives to really get the youth and community engaged in service, for a community that is ready to take that step, which mine is not. When I introduce myself, who I work for and what I am here to do, people step back and get very apprehensive. They give off this air implying "That's great, just don't bother coming to me for anything because my plate is full."
My supervisor is disorganized, contradictory, and debilitating. On more than one occasion she has stepped into meetings that I have set up asking me to reschedule them so I can attend a meeting that she has set up for me. I oblige, only to learn that my presence at this other meeting is met with confusion. Not only do the officials at that meeting wonder why the f*** I'm there, but I am of no use to them or vise versa. In addition, I have burned a bridge that my supervisor previously stressed would be very valuable to me. Then why did you make me reschedule!!!
I'm faxing my resignation in 2 days, this was not the opportunity I was told it would be, no matter how hard I try to make it so. Not to mention I have a 120 mile round trip daily commute to my site and this poor excuse for a living stipend just isn't going to cut it with a car payment, rent, and the monthly payment for the private student loan I have that doesn't qualify for the forbearance.
If you live with someone that can make up for the lack of income you'll be receiving, your position is laid out clearly and professionally by an organized supervisor at a site that embraces your position then Americorps is for you and I wish you the best of luck!

Anonymous said...

Has anyone else noticed that the only people who add a comma to the end of "AmeriCorps sucks" are the ones who have spouses or parents to support them through their year of Ameriwhore service? I love the people I'm serving, but AmeriCorps should make it clear to applicants that this is not a viable option for someone without rich parents.

Anonymous said...

(I just posted above)

And also, just to clarify, I thought that I knew what I was getting myself into - I think that most AmeriCorps volunteers research before they accept their positions. However, I don't think that anyone can truly imagine how overworked, underpaid, and underappreciated you'll be and feel during your term of service.

If we were paid at least minimum wage, or an un-taxed education award, or help with housing and transportation, or offered some kind of "cushion" post-service (like the Peace Corps), we'd all probably be more productive.

I was especially offended when my supervisor told me that our living stipend is so little because it allows AmeriCorps members to better commiserate with the populations that they serve. WTF?! How the hell do they know whether or not I've known poverty? My family was homeless when I was 10-13 years old, and I was homeless alone from age 16-19. So please, AmeriCorps supervisor who makes more than minimum wage and is eligible for unemployment if need be, please don't condescendingly tell me that I'm not capable of having compassion for those in poverty, without being impoverished myself by the crap program that is AmeriCorps.

And no, if I'd known what I was getting myself into - if I had truly understood what it meant to be an AmeriCorps volunteer, I would not be here - I'd be working a full-time job and volunteering for free on the weekends. The whole "living stipend volunteer" concept is a sly semantic cover-up.

Anonymous said...

RE: "The attorney said point blank if you quit after you have been sworn in, it will count as a knock against your employment record with the gov't and exempts you from ever attaining employment with the federal gov't"

I just want you all to know this is complete *crap*. I just resigned from my VISTA position 5 months in to take a FedGov job. The FedGov cared so much about AmeriCorps they wanted me to resign from AmeriCorps immediately so they didn't have to wait two weeks and start me on the next pay cycle. They couldn't care less about my leaving AmeriCorps early.

Read the AmeriCorps handbook. Chapter 12: Administrative Policies, and I quote: "You may also choose to resign from service for personal reasons. You may resign at any time by providing a two-week notification to the sponsoring organization and the Corporation State Office. When practicable, notice of resignation should be given 30 days in advance to ensure that your departure will be minimally disruptive to the project..."

Don't let people tell you you can't resign.

Anonymous said...

(continued...) Now I would like to take a few swings at AmeriCorps if you don’t mind, but first I will out myself as a liberal Democrat. I have an advanced degree and several years of management-level work experience. I didn’t join VISTA because I had no other options; rather I passed up real job offers to do AmeriCorps because I wanted to. The living stipend money was what I thought it would be, and I was fine with that.

But that’s where meeting expectations ended, for details see every other post above mine as I agree with most everything said. I honestly think AmeriCorps *defines* government waste; jobs for the sake of jobs. The entire concept of paid volunteerism is an oxymoron, something even AmeriCorps management seems to struggle with. Are VISTAs employees? Are they volunteers? In my experience what being a VISTA amounts to is this: an underpaid, non-essential employee who forfeits their rights.

You help out a non-profit or in my case burden them because 3/4 of the people I worked with had NO interest in my being there. They were in fact openly upset that I was creating programs they would be charged with sustaining once my 12-monts were up. And to AmeriCorps I was a SSN and $.

My advice? Skip AmeriCorps, get a real job, and do real volunteer work on the weekends. One weekend of direct service with the Red Cross (or whoever) will be far more rewarding than anything you do while “serving” as a VISTA.

Heather said...

But the reality is that VISTA is not the only AmeriCorps option.

Anonymous said...

While I absolutely love my work assignment and I feel I am making a substantial change in the community I am serving - AmeriCorps is still a bad idea.

The living stipend, health benefits, and access to support FROM AmeriCorps is ridiculous. I am six months in and regretting my decision.

I am 30 years old and had wanted a career change. I did NOT join AmeriCorps because I had to - I joined because I wanted to. I quit a job earning 6 times what I now make because I wanted to change careers and make a difference in my community.

Again, while I am enjoying my work assignment, I feel there are many better programs and I will not do VISTA a second term.

Anonymous said...

AmeriCorps Alumni Publishes Memoir, "I Wanted Sunshine But Ran Sideways" by Jenn Ruben. Available to Read on Amazon, will make you laugh out loud!!

Anonymous said...

Why does it seem to be mostly Vistas on here??? I'm in a National Direct program and it's awful!!!!!! HUGE congratulations to those that stuck it out, how in the world did you do it?

Missy said...

So here's my situation with AmeriCorps:

I'm 8 months pregnant, and I have completed about 6 months of service (My husband and I didn't find out I was pregnant until after I accepted the position). It's becoming harder and harder to travel to all the different community service projects, weekly meetings, plus complete my daily site service. I work really hard to complete my hours, but I know once my baby is born, I will not want to leave him early just so I can complete some hours. I was only offered a part time position with AmeriCorps. So that means that I receive non of the benefits like child care assistance and insurance. I only get paid about $200 a month, and my education award would only be about $2,000. Also, my husband and I just found out that he will be deploying this year which is another strain on me. I'm considering leaving the program now so I can focus on my family.

I joined AmeriCorps because I wanted to make a difference. It wasn't something that I had to do. I feel like AmeriCorps is a great program, but certain areas need to be revamped. I have learned a lot while working this program, and the biggest thing I learned is that I don't need to be a part of a program in order to make a difference. It would have been easier for me to just go to a school or homeless shelter and volunteer without dealing with all the paperwork and politics.

Anonymous said...

I was a VISTA starting in August, but I quit right after my midterm meeting (which was rescheduled twice because my supervisors just didn't show up to the first two). I wasn't getting any support at my site and the sponsoring organization was ineffectual when I told them about my frustrations. I have mixed feelings about quitting because I feel like a failure. But when I think back on my time, there is absolutely no way I could have made it until the end.

Anonymous said...

I also started in August 2010 as a VISTA and it has been so comforting to hear that other people don't think AmeriCorps is the greatest program. I'm getting tired of telling myself "it's a good experience" and "it will look so good on my resume." I actually really like the agency I work for and the type of work that they do... I even like some of the staff. However, they have never had a VISTA and don't really know what to do with me. Th Executive Director even told me that when they wrote the grant, they didn't really know what they wanted. My direct supervisor reminds me daily that she is too busy to meet with me and there is no way she can sustain my program once I am gone, so it is up to me to find volunteers or interns or anyone else to do it after I leave. And when I do meet with her she has no idea what I'm supposed to be working on and I find myself simply summarizing what I have done and not receiving any guidance whatsoever. I don't want a supervisor to micromanage but I AM straight out of college and I don't exactly have the experience to just hop into this position and start working.

I agree with some of the earlier posts that it seems like no one really wants you there and the staff are really resistant to any changes you suggest. They are very disorganized and it's hard not to feel like it is your responsibility to solve all of the agency's problems.

I'm going to stick out until August (6 more months!) but I wish this could have been a more fulfilling experience. I will do my best to make the most of my time left. I just wish I had known what I was getting myself into.

Anonymous said...

@ Missy

I don't know if you'll see this or not, but I'm also a military spouse (and VISTA) and my advice to you is to leave your site. Your health and family is more important than AmeriCorps and it sounds like the strain on you to complete your service is not worth the benefits of staying. My husband was stationed overseas during my year of service but I chose to stay at my site to complete my year, mostly out of guilt. If I could do it all over again, I would've left my site and PCS'd with my husband in a heartbeat; the emotional and financial toll of me staying has not been worth it. Seriously, you worry about you, your child and your husband; don't let anyone who doesn't even understand what you're going through try make you feel guilty about leaving.

Anonymous said...

I joined AC in August. I was told by my site supervisor (who has now been replaced) that there was a great project that I'd be working on and that I would be busy ALL the time. I have a Master's degree and he said I'd be doing a lot of things related to my specialty. Yea. Right. He wasnt even the director-he was a substitute until the new one joined. my "project" was nonexistent. So now We have a new supervisor, who is great. I really do like her but I am generally bored and I am gaining NOTHING from this experience. My skills are not being utilized and I feel like I'm wasting my time. I have started to look for different jobs and Im not sure what I'll do if I'm offered something else. I really need the education award but then I'd also like to be happy with what I'm doing. I'm going to try to stick it out but I'm tired of being miserable.

I think AmeriCorps is a good idea in theory but it is not executed well. I also don't think they care about their members enough. This can be absolute hell and all they care about is if you're getting your stupid hours. HELLO I'M DROWNING IN SORROW!!! And of course your cries go unheard.

I hate it. Hopefully by the end of this I will have gained something and this will all be worth it. As for right now, I'm almost 26 and I am completely at a standstill in my life while all my friends are moving forward. I clearly make great decisions. *shrug* GOOD LUCK!

Anonymous said...

and bruce tuckman who was mentioned in the first post; he was my professor at tOSU. Brilliant man but boooooooring.

Dan said...

Look, I'll be honest - the problem I have with my AmeriCorps VISTA assignment is that it was misrepresented, pure and simple. I knew I wasn't going to be making that much $$ when I joined (I do have an issue with their whole "living in poverty" idea - that's for another discussion), but my objection is that my NPO simply doesn't need a VISTA in the department I work in and *has* the financial resources to pay someone to do what I do.

My site supervisor, while a nice, decent person, has routinely abused my VAD and taken/added assignments from it at will without notifying AmeriCorps. Case in point, she completely cut out one of my major three assignments right before I started by hiring a firm - let me make this absolutely clear - PAYING THEM - to do what I was supposed to. I feel as if I can't intervene as she takes a cutting, passive-aggressive approach to dissent. I get criticized for not accomplishing tasks I wasn't responsible for in the first place while I don't have the opportunity to work on the capacity expansion I'm supposed to be there to do. Basically, I get treated like an assistant - free labor.

Most of the work that the VISTA should be doing at this NPO I'm at has been contracted out to friends of management, which indicates to me that they have the money and resources to pay staff to do the things they need. As a matter of fact, the NPO I'm at is about to hire an assistant in the department I work in to do most of the work I have been doing during my year of service, so I have no idea what the next VISTA will be working on.

The other VISTA I work with has been burdened with the work of the director she was supposed to be working with (who was fired for no apparent reason) and at least the work of two assistants the NPO needs and refused for months to hire.

Call that service? I don't. I fully intend on finishing my year, if only because I have less than two months left. The only reason I have for that is that I want to finish what I started and want to enjoy living in New Orleans (which is hard to do considering the ridiculous stipend we're on).

Anonymous said...

I recently completed my year with VISTA, and while I am proud of myself for sticking it out I'm not sure how I feel about it all.

As a whole I consider it a positive experience- I got to meet new people, do new things, live in a new area and gain some job skills while riding out the worst of the recession. I'd like to think I made a positive difference in the community I served in.

However, I can't help but feel a little bitter about it. I joined up because it was important to me to make a difference and I wanted to spend a year doing meaningful work. When I think back to how much menial busy work I was handed by my supervisor, I get upset. I feel like I was often treated more like a personal assistant or temp worker than a volunteer in service to America. How many hours I wasted filing documents, doing physical labor, or even filling in at my site's front desk on a few occasions. My job was 30% "capacity building" and 70% "make my supervisor's life easier."

During my last week at my site I overheard coworkers talking about how they hoped to get more VISTAs over the summer to help mann the front desk...basically be treated as temp workers who make below minimum wage. I did not join VISTA to answer phones and I know no other VISTAs join with the hopes of being treated like cheap labor.

This program needs so much more oversight it's not even funny. VISTAs should not dedicate a year of their lives to national service only to find themselves at the mercy of their service site, expected to do things they didn't agree to and have nothing to do with their position, with little or no backup support. Sites should not be allowed to take advantage of VISTAs in the ways that many of them do.

Kassie said...

I think AmeriCorps is what you make it. There can be hard parts,and yes you make no money, but if you signed up for the money then you are silly.
I am VISTA now. I want to go into the nonprofit sector. I am so happy I am doing this year.
To those who have had problems at your sites, you can switch! Stay in contact with your AmeriCorps supervisor. If you don't have enough work to do start working on other community projects if your site supervisor doesn't give you enough.
Stick with it. For those who had a bad experience please do keep an open mind when talking to others who are interested. It has been the BEST thing I could have done right after college.
I love the AmeriCorps program. It has given me great connections to my community and I love being a VISTA. I know many who feel the same.

Anonymous said...

So I know that VISTAs are not *technically* supposed to have a second job, but I have a flexible work from home position (10 hours/week) doing research that's really important to me, but I'm about to get offered a VISTA position.

What are the chances I will actually get caught if I don't talk about it at all, ever?

Anonymous said...

As a victim of an EF5 tornado in Joplin, MO, I have to say that I was treated like TOTAL CRAP by AmericaCorps. If you are thinking that you will be helping others by joining AmericaCorps, think again. The cynicism in this organization is a poison. Do not join this organization if you are seriously thinking about serving mankind.

Nancy D said...

I recently started AmeriCorps my 3rd time, and I cant stand this term. It's been so stressful. I am working over 8 hours a week, and burning myself out, plus going to school. Should I stay or quit? I have never been a quitter, but I can't stand this....

Didn'tWorkOut said...

I'll be leaving my AmeriCorps position in about a week. I was brought into something sort of haphazardly and spent most of my time bored out of my mind, banging my head against the wall and ultimately being forced to leave my position when outside forces made it impossible to complete my VAD.

I have the option of transferring somewhere else but I'm honestly scared of having a similar or even worse experience. So for now, I go back home, reconfigure and reevaluate my life.

To everyone out there thinking about AmeriCorps VISTA, consider all your other options before getting into service. And if you're still dead set on AmeriCorps, please please please, THOROUGHLY research the sites your interested in, talk to someone who's been at that site and ask questions.

Derek said...

Has anyone had severe problems getting their AmeriCorps Segal Award? I applied a month ago for it and it still hasn't been sent to my school. It is sooo frustrating! I regret joining AmeriCorps!

Anonymous said...

I was a good believer way back in 1995. I signed up for americorps and lasted one month.(My momma didn't raise no fool and I'm not a dummy.) The stipend was bad then. There was no health insurance. I was doing work for an NPO organization and securing their funding by completing my work. To make matters worse, my americorp got in trouble with the federal program administrators for giving out housing allowances for "phantom" members. They also dissolved because of attrition. The douchebag that ran the program lies on his linked in resume. Its nice to see all that the people that acted so powerful and lorded over volunteers are now in sales and retail. Whoo-hoo. I am glad those nifty masters degrees in social studies are paying off for the insecure twits who ran my americorp. Words cannot describe how screwed up and stupid that month was. After I quit, I appreciated the rest away from the rude and horrible people. Seriously, some of the worst people in the world get the grant funding for this program. It was a big load then, and is an even bigger load now. Nobody cares if you quit americorp. Seriously, just do it. It was stupid then, and is stupid now. Just get on with your life. Don't believe the crap about the federal government job. Been there, done that. They don't care, just get yourself a nice cozy fed job and move on. Grad school doesn't care either, been there, done that-twice including medical school so calm down. Its not going to catch up with you in federal employment including security clearances- (yes, even Top Secrets.). Been there, done that, and please-who ever tells you these lies seriously needs to get over themselves. Older and wiser, bought that T-shirt. No one with half a brain sticks around and does a whole year. I believed, saw the light and moved on. Such a shame. Tsk, tsk, what a waste. Seriously, this isn't major groundbreaking important stuff they have americorp folks do--it isn't that important and just doesn't matter. By quitting you may irritate the half-wit director who counts on you to do his or her work for them, and you may irritate the grant bearing operation because they will be down one less person, but you know, hey they'll live. Your idiot grant bearing operation will have some explaining to do, but its not a big deal. It's your life, your sanity, your health and safety, your time and your money. I know no one who would go on food stamps in the name of "getting things done" unless they were bribed with an educational stipend. Also they had that ancient slogan back in my day--"getting things done" and that was like 18 years ago. So really its just stupid, stop taking it so seriously, get over yourselves (some of you people really believe and drank the kool-aid.), admit you made a mistake, move on, and try to get back on track with your life. Also, when you quit don't wash your stupid hat and t-shirt and sweat shirt and all that dumb merchandise they gave you. Just put it in a bag and give it back. If they want it, they can wash it. The whole thing just doesn't matter.

Deejadee said...

I just started Americorp. So far I like my site but feel jipped by the program. Too many rules they basically own you! Can I switch from part time to full time? My director told me not after 2 weeks. I have been a member for 2 months and want to switch to full time. I dont see the big deal but apparently it is. Does anyone out there know?

Anonymous said...

I found this link on youtube today. It made me laugh, remembering the pain of that year so long ago now. The funniest part of it is, my boss told me she was an intj, two weeks after we started. I just didn't know exactly what that meant back then. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mkaQYmqk_ho

Unappreciated said...

Unappreciated
I've been serving AmeriCorps for about our month now and I am not happy in my serivce thus far. I joined for many reasons, reasons that include to make a difference in the community, to be a part of something bigger than myself, and finally give the help that was once given to me through nonprofits or kind hearted strangers. Four months into I can say that on the service side I'm happy to report that I am making positive impact on my students in the afterschool program that I serve. I'm helping them with homework, being their shoulder to lean on, helping them to develop or enhance their reading levels, and getting them excited about reading altogether. Now, on the flip side of that is the administrative, I feel that it overloads me with work some of which is not relative to what I signed up to do. I signeded up as a part time member but feel like I'm doing fulltime work. I feel that some of the work does interfere with my education as I am a fulltime student and for the most part my education is my first priority. In addition to tha I work a part time job as the stiphend is nothing to rely on. I feel that its unrealistic of them to stack so much paper work on someone in my situation. AmeriCorps wants me to do homewrok, reflection logs,m great stories, LPIP, and undergo training while doing schoolwork? In addition it just seems like many of my positive efforts go unrecognized as I do go above and beyond my service. I've made Halloween cotumes for kids who didn't have one, brought more professional clothing only to be told that some is inappropriate as I am a CURVY girl, and volunteer for events that are not relative to my service. Never once do I recieve a thank you on those positive efforts or any recognition. When my supervisor had a time to thank me or give me any recognition all I got was a feedback on my LPIP in front of all my fellow AmeriCorps members at a training. If it was not for the kids I would QUIT as they are the only ones I am there to serve and do see my positive efforts. In closing I just think that AmeriCorps is time consuming. I only recommend people who a lot of time of on their hands no school maybe a part time job and no kids to join so that it doesn't conflict with any of the above mentioned things. I advise those who join to remain optimistic, pray, and to research as much as you can prior to joining.

Anonymous said...

I recently got accepted, but found a better job. Can I quit americorps before even starting?

Anonymous said...

I'm about six and a half months into my Americorps VISTA position and I am trying very hard to find a new job. My issues are both with VISTA itself and my host site. The last half of a year has mostly been miserable, sans the first two months where I was still shiny and new and my private loans were deferred.

My worst issue is with the money. Yes, I know we are living on the poverty line, and that's fine, but honestly, we live below it. I have been lower middle class all of my life, so I'm not whining about being poor. I am beyond poor. I make around $760 a month, and I am expected to pay my rent and bills with this. I made nearly twice as much money when I worked 35 hours a week at McDonalds in college. I had an extremely difficult time getting food stamps, and still only got like $90 a month. I cannot get housing assistance, believe me, I tried. My banks where I have private loans from banks that will not do anything to lower the payments or grant me economic hardship. Some banks will, but mine will not and they blame the economy. I also pay half a car payment, part of my car insurance, and for a cell phone bill that is $35 a month. Luckily my parents still cover parts of my car payments and car insurance and when I cannot pay them at all, they do it. I pay off as much of these things every month as I can, but not all of them, and bill collectors are hounding me. When I first signed up for my position, they said I would be making between 900 and 1200 a month, depending on where I was placed (my program is statewide). Even before taxes, I make around 820, not 900. I addressed this and they act like they never told me that. I was also told at PSO that most banks will grant economic hardship or defer loans, which is not the case. And yes, they tax your stipend. They also tax the interest they pay on your federal loans and your education award counts as income. Right now, I make around $4 an hour. I work at least 45 hours a week.

My host organization is terrible. It is managed poorly, it runs out of money all of the time, and my direct supervisor is crazy. She has an unmedicated mood disorder. Her mood swings are crazy. She has made me cry five times since I've been here. Just today she slammed the door in my face. Once she had a nervous breakdown in front of me. It takes weeks for any work to get approved, even when it's something important. I get blamed for things being done at the last minute, even though I turn it in weeks in advance. My office will not let you take flex time, even when you work 15 hour days (it happens). I worked 60 hour weeks for a month before an event and never was allowed any flex time. My organization has become so dependent on VISTA labor (they had 14 VISTAS for 3 locations) that they are freaking out and trying to get interns and State National volunteers because they-- and this is a direct quote-- "won't be able to run programming without it."

So far, four of our VISTAS have quit, and currently me and two others are seriously looking for jobs. Our executive director just quit too. I would have quit months ago, but I relocated and am stuck in a lease and need SOME money for bills. I am looking for a new job and have been for 2 months. Employers are not impressed by Americorps. They think it's stupid you work for so little money.

I joined Americorps VISTA because I was an idealist and wanted help with my federal loans. It has ruined me. I am in more debt now than I was when I entered service. I am no longer an idealist and tell everyone to avoid Americorps unless they are totally desperate. I'm not sure about other Americorps program, but I think VISTA should be cut from the budget. I truly hope it is because it will stop nonprofits from becoming dependent on people working for $3 an hour on the government's dime and it will also prevent some nonprofits from abusing the free labor and in many cases, their "volunteers."

Unknown said...

I have completed 5 months of Americorp and HATE it.This "job" is making me feel so lame, burnt out, and apathetic. It has really lowered my self esteem. I have gained 20 lbs since starting.
I feel really stuck. I don't even care about the education award anymore. It's not worth it. You can earn the same amount in a year of doing a real job.
I'm trying to think of a way to quit. The thing is, the people at my site are all nice (although I don't feel I fit in there).They even gave me gifts. I also feel obligated to continue because I work with children and have done trainings to work with them. I like children, but don't like working with the age group I have. The paperwork is completely confusing to me. I feel stupid and lazy because of my constant confusion and just trying to get answers. There is no communication between my site and Americorps. It's just really frustrating and has made me feel stupid since I started, because I feel like I have no idea what I'm doing most of the time.
I did not know that one could do an exit interview, I thought that one couldn't quit? I don't know what to do because I don't want to let the people at my site down (especially the children), but couldn't care less about Americorp.
What do I tell future employees, if I do quit? What do I tell the people at my site? If I go for an interview, what should I say, if I'm still in Americorp, but want that job? One reason I want to quit is because my dad was really sick and the doctor's bills were a lot. I feel bad that my parents are helping me some financially right now, and want to help my dad out (he is doing better now, so I don't really want to lie, as that being my main reason). But if I got a higher paying job, it would help my family out.
This has really lowered my self esteem. I feel naive for joining such a program without looking into it more. I have an associate's degree, a bachelor's degree, and 2 years of work experience during college. And my family thought this was the best I could get. I'm feeling really angry and frustrated. But when i want to quit, I think, well the economy is bad right now, I might not be able to get another job.
I try to stay positive by thinking that I'm helping others. But like other people have said, Americorps is misleading and I could have helped people more by doing other volunteer work while working a real job. I don't think I'm changing the world, right now I'm just trying to help out. I try to tell myself that I should be grateful to have a job (what family tells me) and that there are worst jobs and positions to be in. But, I feel I have worked really hard at college and my past employment and I'm just so dissapointed that this is the result? I just hate feeling like I'm wasting my time, my life. My site is not even what I want as a career. I was in a bad mental state when I accepted the offer (worried about sick family member, fight with other family member, burnt out from work and school, thinking I could find nothing else).
I don't even know if I will get the education award, because of AS to make up. But where is the time, if they expect me to do a million other things?
If anyone is thinking about joining Americorps, please look into it first. I really wish I had read these posts before I joined.
I feel for all of you who are in the same situation.
How would I quit, and how does this look to future employers?
Thanks for reading.

Karen said...

So glad I found this discussion! Not your average Americorps here, I guess: 58, writer/editor, freelancing dried up with the economic collapse and I thought it would be ideal to use that as an opportunity to do good for a year; a productive sabbatical. Did a lot of research, worried about expenses vs. stipend...Americorps folks here said I'd get Food Stamps and healthcare. That meant I could afford to volunteer for a year; savings and freelance writing would cover the rest. Several site choices and I opted for one that serves folks with disabilities. Where, it turns out, Americorps people are given mandatory overtime for all sorts of reasons so instead of a 35 or 40 hour work week, mine is 50 or 60 hours. No refusals allowed. So no more time to freelance at all. DES office said no food stamps -- apparently I'm not destitute enough. And now the site where I work says sure, you get health coverage, but you have to pay for it. So neither of the 'make or break' conditions (healthcare and food stamps) have come to pass as promised, and no one ever mentioned indentured servitude either. I am angry, but more importantly, I do not know if I can survive the rest of the year (economically) under these conditions.

Anonymous said...

I’m a VISTA who’s relieved to find there’s a place for members to discuss our experiences outside of the VISTA campus. The VISTA campus is a great resource, but at the end of the day it is still a government run forum and that makes the paranoid in me leery. Also, if you post any thoughts that are less than rosy or – God forbid! – criticize AmeriCorps on the VISTA campus there’s always that commenter who tells you that it’s not about you, it’s about eliminating poverty. Sometimes we do need to keep that in mind, but that doesn’t mean we can’t be human and it certainly doesn’t make AmeriCorps immune from criticism either.

In addition, I firmly believe that the supervisors of the collaborative project I’m serving with are the type that would go digging to see what the VISTAs might have said if and when they put two and two together. I’m glad to have a space where I can post anonymously without worrying about whether anyone from my project sees it and get a little salty or cranky. I really hate that no one here has a sense of discretion. This is a “six-hour town” where if you say something at 10:00 everyone knows by 4:00, and it’s bitten me in the ass a couple of times. Although I’m hardly outspoken, the feeling that I constantly have to mince words is a real struggle.

Another thing I struggle with is the expectation that VISTAs come equipped with superhuman capabilities. I’m serving with 3 agencies this year on a rotational basis, and the workload and near-constant rotational whiplash is challenging enough as is. The agency I served with at the start of my service year is so well-organized already that I’m still not entirely sure I’ve made a difference there.
The two social services agencies I’m serving with have expected me to do the jobs of several people – the agency I was based at in November-December asked me to do any damn thing that came to mind, pick up the slack for a staff member who couldn’t or wouldn’t do her job, and create capacity. The social services agency I’m serving with now expects me to be a combination of caseworker, volunteer coordinator/office manager, and donor manager. In addition to all of this, I have to be a contributing member to the collaborative project.

Honestly, right now I feel under experienced and overwhelmed. A three month internship and a few days of PSO did not shove a magic wand in my hand. They certainly didn’t prepare me to be expected to manage a social services office after a whopping total of a month’s experience with the organization, then go home and do the service I’m supposed to perform. I cannot be expected to come in and revolutionize three agencies from the bottom. I’m really struggling with expectations so high I can’t possibly meet them. I think it’s because this collaborative project is in its first year and the organizations drank deeply from the AmeriCorps Kool-Aid.

There’s a lot of good in AmeriCorps, but there’s some serious issues. Although I’m struggling, I came in knowing that AmeriCorps is a government bureaucracy under the veneer of altruism and that I had no intent to change the world. I think if I had been a starry-eyed optimist I’d have never made it this far. AmeriCorps needs to tell members and supervisors bluntly and straightforwardly what service is and is not instead of relying on the warm fuzzies to sustain us all.

Anonymous said...

I just quit AmeriCorps VISTA and I feel so relieved. There are no consequences to quitting. The education award is so heavily taxed that it's barely worth it because you can make that much at a regular job in 2 or 3 months. I don't care about non-competitive eligibility because I don't want to work for the government. I already found a job outside of AmeriCorps and it pays nearly 5x more and it is doing exactly what I did as a VISTA. I wasted 5 months of my life and I will never get those months back. I urge others to really consider the decision to do this ridiculous, wasteful, bureaucratic program before they sign up and sign their lives away. Truly an awful experience.

Anonymous said...

I literally hate my job as an Americorps. Okay, I don't hate all aspects of it, but I feel as though it is a gigantic waste of time. I'm a state member, so I can have a 2nd job, but still that doesn't even begin to help with my school loans or living wages. I want to look for a different job, but I'm scared to leave because I was basically hired for a huge Summer Program and the organization would have no one to run it. It's really not my problem though, I feel..could be selfish. I'm just not equipped for this certain environment. I am always anxious and I dread coming to work everyday. Fridays are the happiest days of my life because I don't have to work at my organization all weekend and I can be free of it. My AC team is doing a lot of anti-racism work and Cultural Competency work, which I absolutely love, but my job description isn't all about that. I basically do menial tasks all day long and when I try to do programs or start thing I want done in the organization, my supervisor directs me back to our original projects from our contract. I would not recommend anyone do Americorps. It is a waste of time and money. I'm glad I'm not the only one who is feeling the weight of Americorps.

Anonymous said...

Hi All,
Like most have stated before, I am grateful to have found a webpage like this, because I can see that I am not alone in my hardships with AmeriCorps.

I am currently headed into month six, and I have debated leaving now for about four months! I feel overworked and underappreciated, not to mention underpaid!

I am sending positive vibes to all who are in AmeriCorps feeling like this. I came in very enthusiastic to continue being an agent of change, but once we got started, my supervisor and site coordinator have done nothing but policed what I do. I am still here because I enjoy being with my students, despite the bad times with them.

Anonymous said...

I was raped as a direct result of my work. Instead of support, I was given the "option" to leave.
F--K Americorp

Anonymous said...

Hello, everyone! I am an older volunteer, or "member" as we are supposed to call ourselves, and I am so unhappy I could scream. AmeriCorps signed me up almost three months into the program year, as they were trying to boost their numbers where I live. But get this -- they gave me ALL 1700 hours of service, but pro-rated the pay. I work at a non-profit, which had submitted applications for TWO different workers, so when they got me, they just combined them so I could do it all. I missed out on all the early on paychecks, but I get to do the time -- like 60+ hours a week, so I am supposed to take on extra AmeriCorps tasks, work at night, on weekends. I am exhausted and feel like a machine.
Every time I tell someone the situation, they exclaim that this should be illegal. How could they not pay me all the stipend but give me all the hours? God knows, but it's not nice. I am also working a second job to make ends meet and have a place to live, so this is brutal. I can't even sleep at night anymore I am so stressed. On top of it all, I am doing top quality work and the non-profit is taking advantage ... they could hire someone, but why do that when you can get a slave? OMG, I made a huge mistake. I don't know at this point whether the job will kill me or I will just kill myself to relieve the pressure.
I wouldn't do AmeriCorps unless:
1. You live with your parents who pay the rent and let you use the washer and dryer.
2. The small stipend is enough to keep you happy (because your parents pay all the real bills).
3. You want to see what it's like to get taken advantage of, so that you can avoid that experience when you go out into the real world.

Anonymous said...

i quit and now its eating at me. wish i stayed =(

Anonymous said...

Hi all, I'm so glad I found this post. I am 4 months into my service, and I am completely miserable. I am in an Americorps State program and I work in an inner-city high school. I love the school, the principal and the other faculty and staff. The kids are usually great too :)
However, my supervisor at the non-profit is all talk. She never follows through with anything she says and is hardly ever at work but at "meetings". The non-profit was supposed to be looking into other areas for funding since the pay has been dropped three times. We are at about $986 per month. This has not happened. I realize that this is service but I am feeling as though I am not helping my children as I am supposed to. Many of our ideas get praised and then the supervisor never wants to follow through. Many times we have to come out of our own pocket for things.She says we will be reimbursed but it doesn't happen. We attend trainings that are so pointless and not helpful. I put on a smile and "fake it til I make it" everyday. Little does she know I would leave tomorrow if I could. At this point I am looking for another job and I could careless about the educational award. I don't have much in loans anyway.I pray for each of you all's strength as we make it through, whether you decide to stay full term or leave early. God bless.

Anonymous said...

So I'm in the middle of my second term of service with Americorps. While I do feel a bit burned out at times, and frustrated, this job has literally given me so many skills it's ridiculous. I feel so much more confident in myself and my capabilities because of this job. I am working within the PIRG (Public Interest Research Group) network as an Americorps member for Energy Service Corps, and I have 6 other Americorps interns under me. I have met some incredible great and passionate people and feel proud of how much we have accomplished in this amount of time. And we never run out of things to do. I know some of you have had terrible experiences, but honestly Americorps has allowed me to have a job and priceless leadership experience. Though I suppose the Public Interest Network is INCREDIBLY good at training organizers. It depends on where you are, and I feel very fortunate.

Tim said...

I see a ton of terrible experiences on here and see many wonderful experiences on other sites. I am truly lost.

Anonymous said...

Tim,

I can’t say “no” in all cases of anyone wanting to join AmeriCorps but I would say “no” in most. Keep in mind that my advice is given from the perspective of a full-time VISTA, although I’m aware that there are VISTA summer associates and State and National members who work part or quarter time. The first thing I would do is examine your motivations for joining and be really, really honest about it. If you want to join to save the world – don’t. You can work a minimum wage job and volunteer in your off hours to do more good with less headache and heartache. If you want to join to gain professional skills, references, a line on your resume, the education award, or simply to mark time then take a few months and seriously think about it.

Having a good experience with AmeriCorps depends more upon your project site than how you relate to AmeriCorps nationally. I would definitely recommend volunteering with a host site you’re interested in first to get a feel for how you fit there and what the organizational culture is like. Try to get a sense of the organizational structure as well. You don’t want to be at an organization where the Executive Director (ED) has his or her own kingdom. You want an organization where the Board will call out an ED if they aren’t doing what they’re supposed to do.

I would advise not joining up with a first-year program. We’re volunteers but we’re there at the office full-time along with the staff, and this is a grey area that’s not well-understood by many. It’s a two way street in that AmeriCorps does a terrible job explaining it and many host sites think that since they’ve applied for their grant and paid their match that they’re off the hook as far as educating themselves about AmeriCorps. At the very least this leads to confusion about your purpose at the organization and at worst expectations of flunkeyism. These misunderstandings only get worse when your supervisor wasn’t in on the grants process and/or hasn’t been oriented to AmeriCorps. You’ll often have to be your own advocate, which on top of living on a stipend amounting to half of minimum wage and trying to do sustainable work in the short time you have while also expected to be the office grunt is exhausting.

Avoiding first year programs also means that there are previous members out there that you can talk to – definitely take advantage of that. I would also advise volunteering locally or with someplace that provides housing. Housing is a big chunk of anyone’s budget and can be difficult to find on our stipend. Speaking of the stipend, during pre-service orientation and other member trainings this number is often given to you in a yearly total. Get the numbers and break them down into your bi-weekly paycheck, post- tax if possible but at least pre-tax. From what I understand of the comments here, State and National members often put in so many hours they’re virtually full-time and just don’t have the time and are too exhausted to find another job. VISTA members are strictly forbidden from working another job so that bi-weekly stipend is all they receive. Ask yourself if you can live on or with that – there’s no shame in saying you can’t.

As I said before, I wouldn’t say “no” to everyone wanting to join AmeriCorps but I would say “no” to most people wanting to join. At the very least, do some research and don’t join on a whim. Anyone else want to chime in with their advice for potential members?

Anonymous said...

If you want to join Americorps VISTA- do your research! I moved 1,000 miles away to work for an organization that sounded great on paper- I spoke with the director of the organization and did some research online. I had asked for contact information for former VISTAs at the site, and never received any. I wish I had been more adamant about getting these references. This has been a terrible experience. My organization is completely unorganized. Most of my coworkers are incredibly lazy, don't do their jobs, lie and shift the blame whenever possible. The director lives in his own world- he wants what he wants and will not understand if you explain why something hasn't worked, or if you want to try something different. He is also an intense micromanager, and is very petty and tries to play employees off each other to get what he wants. There is no supervision, direction, or support. My site has 4 other VISTAs. They constantly are misused for duties that VISTAs shouldn't be doing. The organization is completely dependent upon them. I have about 4 months left of my term. My biggest regret is that I didn't leave much earlier. Now that I am only 4 months away for my end of service, it would be a waste to quit now and forfeit my ed award, when I have already spent so much time and energy. Also, if I leave early, they will not help me relocate back home, which would be quite the chunk of change. I have tried to speak with higher ups, and have heard a lot of talk but no action. These problems have been noted MULTIPLE times before by previous VISTAs, and yet nothing has changed. The number of negative comments and experiences I have heard about with VISTA far outnumber the positives. This year has really made me question the effectiveness of VISTA- sometimes I feel like the whole program should be scrapped. This is not to say there aren't some positive VISTA experiences out there. But take some time to thoroughly look into your organization. Talk to organizations they have partnered with in the past (the organization I work for has a horrible reputation among local agencies- no one wants to work with us. Instead of feeling proud of my service, I am often embarrassed to let people know I work for such a poorly regarded organization). Talk to past VISTAs. And, very importantly, if you are not happy with your placement, LEAVE! I kept sticking it out because I didn't want to be a quitter, and I really wanted to give it a fair shake. I was also concerned that leaving early would look really bad or prevent me from ever doing Americorps again- I really don’t think it matters. Those who left early haven’t had horrible things happen to them- in fact, most of them are happier than I am. Also, I have found it difficult to look for jobs post Americorps. You know when your end of service is, but many jobs aren’t going to hire you 4 months early. I am worried about post-Americorp employment (especially since I’ll need to earn back everything I’ve lost during this year), because I don’t think I’ll be able to have something lined up well in advance. I sincerely wish I had just left after a month or two, because it has not gotten better, only worse. This whole experience has made me very discouraged and destroyed my confidence, because looking back on my past 8 months of service, I cannot say that I have accomplished much of anything at all.

Anonymous said...

Hey fellow AmeriCorps,
I'm currently in my 6 months of service and for basically the last, hmmmm, 6 months I have been debating on whether or not I should leave. My placement hasn't been paramount in my life and I really don't enjoy the work. I feel as though I have tons of talents, but they're not being used for my line of service, nor am I doing much of anything. I think AmeriCorps can be great for some people, but it really takes the right placement to thrive. I went through the supposed '5 Stages of AmeriCorps,' but I'm still stuck at the Storming stage. I'm genuinely not happy to go to work everyday. My site is supposed to be a lot of direct service, but I get assigned to menial tasks and do whatever my boss needs me to do, which wasn't in my job description. If you don't love your position and think about leaving more then you think about staying, then leave. There's no use being miserable and becoming a toxic person. If you're worried about the ED award, well, you're gonna get screwed over anyway because you can't use it all at once unless you want to move up a tax bracket and the government taxes it heavily. Do what your gut tells you to do. And maybe you can stick it out for how much ever longer you have of service. You'd be much stronger then I.

Anonymous said...

I got convicted of DUI and work in a school. Can I be terminated if my lead finds out?

Disheartened Teammates said...

Simply put VISTA is a colossal waste of time, energy and government resources. It diminishes the skills and training you work so hard to develop in college, by forcing you to work in corrupt and disorganized non-profits such as Communities In Schools of Philadelphia (If you are placed here run for the hills). We began our year with 9 VISTAs in August 2011, and currently have 4 left. The "organization" we work for is on the verge of bankruptcy and corrupt. Nepotism runs rampant, with the President's niece and mistress working in the office, the COO's daughter serving as our direct supervisor which makes reporting her indiscretions impossible. We average about 15 hours of work a week, on a good week when a desk and internet access is available at our sites. We are forced to deal with hostile employees, who gossip about us and make our work environment unpleasant and verbal abuse from the COO, her daughter and the "Deputy Chiefs". Due to the organizations "lack of financial resources" we have spent money from our $220 a week stipend to fund the program and purchase incentives for our students. We not only do direct service, we work in the most dangerous sections of Philadelphia and not once have we received proper training to "teach" the students we serve. We have asked AmeriCorps to intervene on our behalf, while they were friendly they made it very clear our only options were to shut up and stick it out or to quit and forfeit all "benefits." This year proved to be useless, and has shown us how corrupt, unorganized and useless non-profits tend to be. GO VISTA!!!!!

Anonymous said...

So, how do we take AmeriCorps down? Who are all of these "People" we are being warned about that want AmeriCorps gone? I want to know, I have much to tell;)

Anonymous said...

I have to say, after nine months of working at a rural
K-8 charter school in Northern California, I had a pretty decent Americorps experience, although it was not what I expected. I'm 26, so I was a bit older than the other 20 mentors at my site. I took this job after answering an internet ad when I relocated for graduate school. While I initially wanted to focus on the "business" aspect of my work- (tutoring and mentoring) I was surprised at how important my team became during the course of the school year, and how important things like teamwork and a sense of community have become. My supervising team was also really open and supportive so that helped as well. I loved the community service aspect of the job as well. For instance, it was really rewarding taking my kids to a local gospel mission at Christmas to make care packages for the homeless community. Now, on to the negative: Even as a "half timer" I worked seven or so hours a day Monday-Friday. On top of grad school and homework, this was all-consuming. Although my student loans helped with boarding expenses, the stipend is really low for all of the work that you do. If you have any ideas to provide parties, prizes, or other fun stuff for your students, that comes out of your pocket, and it gets really expensive. I taught 7th/8th graders, so my partner and I often needed to give them incentives to come to our after school program and do their homework and such. There is also inconsistencies with how many kids actually show up on a daily basis. It can be really hard to plan a thematic unit when you have 14 kids one day and two the next. Also, many parents often view what you do as "free childcare." This can become annoying when you are faced with parents that don't back up the discipline you try to provide, or they frequently come late to pick up their child, forcing you to stay way later then intended. In addition, regular staff at our site was not always supportive of the program- I had a feeling some teachers felt that mentors and our program was a nuisance. It has been really interesting reading about everyone's different experiences, and I do feel that mine has helped prepare me to become a real teacher someday soon.

Anonymous said...

I have never believed in posting reviews or comments on the internet because I feel like by and large they're hogwash. However I have to express this opinion. Americorps is a complete and total waste of time and tax payers money. I'm a VISTA and not only am I forced to do direct service, my grievances always go completely unanswered. The people you deal with from direct supervisors to bureaucratic idiots up the chain of command are absolutely incompetent and inflexible. During my year of 'service' I often work 10-15 hours a week, My end date has been pushed back several times and I am completely disrespected and insulted on a daily basis. If you are reading this, take the high road and do anything within your power to avoid Americorps, a disgusting use of tax payer funds.

Anonymous said...

I joined AmeriCorps VISTA last July and moved out to Wyoming for a year of service from Illinois. I was expecting to constantly be having work and giving back to society, instead I have gone whole months of just goofing off on the internet. My boss has no use for me and has given me busy work on numerous occasions, this work is usually completed in less than an hour. When I first started I had more work and even did research on helping my organization get 501(c)3 status. I provided this information after dilligent research to my supervisor in November. It is now June and nothing has been done to file for 501(c)3 status. I have completely wasted my time and dealing with the frigid Wyoming winter is not worth it. I have a month left in AmeriCorps and at this point I figure I might as well sit it out and get the education reward. The program needs more oversight, its absurd.

Anonymous said...

I joined AC in August. I was told by my site supervisor (who has now been replaced) that there was a great project that I'd be working on and that I would be busy ALL the time. I have a Master's degree and he said I'd be doing a lot of things related to my specialty. Yea. Right. He wasnt even the director-he was a substitute until the new one joined. my "project" was nonexistent. So now We have a new supervisor, who is great. I really do like her but I am generally bored and I am gaining NOTHING from this experience. My skills are not being utilized and I feel like I'm wasting my time. I have started to look for different jobs and Im not sure what I'll do if I'm offered something else. I really need the education award but then I'd also like to be happy with what I'm doing. I'm going to try to stick it out but I'm tired of being miserable.

I think AmeriCorps is a good idea in theory but it is not executed well. I also don't think they care about their members enough. This can be absolute hell and all they care about is if you're getting your stupid hours. HELLO I'M DROWNING IN SORROW!!! And of course your cries go unheard.

I hate it. Hopefully by the end of this I will have gained something and this will all be worth it. As for right now, I'm almost 26 and I am completely at a standstill in my life while all my friends are moving forward. I clearly make great decisions. *shrug* GOOD LUCK

Anonymous said...

Glad I found this blog. I have been part of Americorps for 6 months now...6 more months to go and I've never been so bored in my whole entire life.

Nothing to do. Get treated like a child. Supervisor doesn't care that I have nothing to do but then yells when I try to do something. It's absolutely miserable.

I was so excited coming into it. Fresh out of school and full of knowledge...ready to take on the world. Had such a good time at school. Didn't want to do any more but now I wish I had because at least I was keeping busy and making money. Now I'm bored for 8 hours of my day and making no money.

I'm more disappointed than anything. This has completely killed any passion I had for the field of Human Services. For the non-profits "trying to do good for their community". It's a bunch of bullshit. All I've found is a bunch of shitheads drinking coffee all day like its social hour (every hour...) and making fun of people coming in here needing help.

I have to finish out my time just because I have no other options at this point and I do want the educational award but I wish I had just stayed home and continued waitressing and paying off my loans. This is useless and is changing me for the worst.

Don't do Americorps. It's stupid stupid stupid.

Anonymous said...

Glad I found this blog. I have been part of Americorps for 6 months now...6 more months to go and I've never been so bored in my whole entire life.

Nothing to do. Get treated like a child. Supervisor doesn't care that I have nothing to do but then yells when I try to do something. It's absolutely miserable.

I was so excited coming into it. Fresh out of school and full of knowledge...ready to take on the world. Had such a good time at school. Didn't want to do any more but now I wish I had because at least I was keeping busy and making money. Now I'm bored for 8 hours of my day and making no money.

I'm more disappointed than anything. This has completely killed any passion I had for the field of Human Services. For the non-profits "trying to do good for their community". It's a bunch of bullshit. All I've found is a bunch of shitheads drinking coffee all day like its social hour (every hour...) and making fun of people coming in here needing help.

I have to finish out my time just because I have no other options at this point and I do want the educational award but I wish I had just stayed home and continued waitressing and paying off my loans. This is useless and is changing me for the worst.

Don't do Americorps. It's stupid stupid stupid.

Anonymous said...

Spit, spit, spit and yuck, yuck, yuck! Oh. My. God.

I was not in a VISTA program, but rather a National program. I left a full-time job with stability and comfortable benefits to move across the country and take a small but substantive step toward my career dream.

Bitchy supervisors who were oh so condescending. I've honestly never met human beings who could masterfully fake a non-fake, sincere appearance to the general public while being so conniving and down-cutting to their AmeriCorps members. In staff meetings, my partner and I were called out on things we "didn't do" and "didn't listen to" even though our collective case load was significantly higher than any other respective affiliate office in the whole U.S.-of-A. Also, never in any job have I been reprimanded and flat out demeaned for meeting management requests. The results: never good enough for management. N-E-V-E-R. Poor direction before projects, condescending answers during projects, and no direction after projects except, "Do it again." After three months, we felt so far behind, even though our progress far exceeded other affiliate/sister offices in the country...because our positions depended on it.

What's even more: I was punctual. My office mate was/is a great human being but not always so punctual.

I took a massive risk to live in a very expensive area of the United States not knowing what would ultimately happen. You know your AC experience is bad when, after less than four months, you were glad to be fired. Sure, I screamed and showed my arse (not literally) to my managers, but after walking out, I realized that post-therapeutically I was relieved to have been let go. My really nice but non-punctual partner stayed on board--not that I would have wanted him to be let go, but it shows that not all "employers" (we aren't to call them "employers" in AC, remember) care about honesty from an "employee."

I know (yes, know) that two manager in the offices, for whatever reason, thought I was a "closed-minded conservative" and just had it out for me. I never mentioned politics, economics or religion even remotely on that site. (For the record, I am conservative which doesn't necessarily translate to "closed-minded.") I will say, however, that I knew I wasn't going to like my particular program when one of our trainers began constantly bashing Bush and Republicans during orientation. I kept my mouth shut, but I've never been exposed even any blatant political bloviating of any kind in any one job, whether regarding liberals or conservatives. Frankly, I found it offensive.

AmeriCorps: Kiss my arse!

Anonymous said...

DON'T FRIGGEN DO AMERICORPS! For the love of whatever Higher Power you ascribe to, don't sign up! Uggghhhhh, I'm in my last month of service and I've cursed my job for the entire term I've chosen to stay for.

My biggest regret is that I stayed the whole time. The ED award isn't worth it anymore. I'm sure I learned valuable lessons about how to work in a professional workplace, how to deal with a supervisor, and etc. BUT FOR REAL! I would have been much happier leaving a long long time ago. AC CAN REALLY SUCK IT!

I'm so uninterested and so uninvested that my last few weeks will look like me just doing whatever I want to do. Glad there are people that feel the same way.

Anonymous said...

I have to say that I agree with many of the comments on this site regarding AmeriCorps. I currently have over three months left of my 1-year AmeriCorps service in New York City, and I am concerned that I will not make it through without resigning on account of my own mental and emotional health. I have found it to be a colossal waste of time for the most part, as well as a cause of unnecessary stress and misery in my life. From day one, it has been a horrendous experience. The "position" in this program is so worthless, unproductive, and demeaning that I have been contemplating resigning and moving back home with my parents for many months now. So you know that this is not mere complaining or hearsay, I'll give you the facts. I am a college graduate with a masters degree who wanted to gain experience in non-profit and do something rewarding and valuable for others and hopefully in turn gain knowledge about the world of non profit, etc and ideally gain focus in terms of career direction as well. Clearly, to my discredit, I should have done more research about this program before enrolling. But that being said, I did look at the basic info about the program, and it looked good/kosher, but apparently that was just a marketing ploy that convinces suckers such as myself to join under vague and false pretenses. First of all, I thought I would be working (volunteering) with OTHER people, not designated to one small organization as the sole AmeriCorps person there, operating under the disturbingly heavy, constant supervision of one director, with no one else on the same level as myself to work or interact with. Hence, I am not around any other AmeriCorps members or anyone who is in the same sort of boat as myself, rather my chief and virtually sole interaction is confined to dealing with my director (supervisor), who seems disorganized and unable or unwilling to designate barely any time or energy to me, doesn't seem to trust me at all for some reason, and rarely assigns me any work to do, which means I typically sit at a desk in a small, open office (five feet away from my supervisor) with no personal privacy and nothing to do for hours and hours on end. The most challenging work I have been assigned is menial data entry tasks that involve inputting hundreds of names and addresses into a database. Beyond that, any other work that I do consists of stuff that I could easily do on any given Sunday at any local soup kitchen or church (for example; mopping, taking out trash, handing out food pantry bags, etc). For at least the first few months I frequently asked my supervisor for work or things to do, expressed interest, and made it clear that I had brains and energy, but oddly, this had a reverse effect, and it seemed to somehow make my supervisor uncomfortable or annoyed. I usually am not assigned any work to do even after requesting it, so I have basically come to the point where I don't even ask for work anymore, and I have essentially succumb to what is apparently my role here as an AmeriCorps member - to sit stationary for hours on end at a computer, feeling worthless, and watching what is left of my dignity and self-esteem slowly fade away.

Anonymous said...

http://politicspopphilanthropy.com/2012/07/the-problem-with-americorps-vista/

my two cents.

Anonymous said...

I found this blog after looking up some info on taxes post-Americorps. It really makes me sad that so many people have had a rough time with Americorps, especially as a VISTA. I did a year of service in Boston after being laid off from my marketing job in NY and I really enjoyed my year. I worked as a marketing/communications person and learned quite a bit (although some of it was self-tought). I think the key to a good year of service is: the organization you are working with - how much they have their crap together, if there are any other VISTAs in that org, and how good you are at budgeting/living on limited wages.

I'd say that if you are still under your parents health insurance and know that the organization is reputable and that there will be other VISTAs there, go for it. It really can be rewarding if you find the right place. I had 3 other VISTAs at my site and a lot of the employees had been former VISTAs (which is good and bad).

The real complaint I have is the health coverage. I now have some debt from a medical visit that I was told was covered but because the doctor did NOT do a certain test, it was not covered. As someone pointed out, the prescription coverage is fantastic.

I also served at an organization that gave me a rent subsidy. I believe it was $200/month but it was a huge help. There are other organizations that do that.

Additionally, if you are young enough and are looking for a more hands-on, direct serve route, maybe try out NCCC? I had a co-worker that served with NCCC and loved it. She said it was kind of like summer camp with direct service and traveling.

Regardless, good luck to everyone. My year wasn't the greatest, it was definitely challenging, but it wasn't awful by any means.

Anonymous said...

For any of you who had even a remotely positive, or even tolerable experience in AmeriCorps, I'm happy for you. I really am. I question your mental sanity and IQ, among other things, but I am happy for you nonetheless. For all the rest of you who had, or are having, a truly awful experience in AmeriCorps, I feel your pain. I am very grateful for the many of you who posted your honest frustrations about AmeriCorps on this site. I now know that I am not completely alone in my extreme discontent with this so-called "program". I have over three months left in my seemingly eternal time of service. I have had some painfully boring, monotonous, soul-sucking internship and job experiences in my life, I thought I had reached a point where I could only move up, or at least stay on the same level, so to speak. And AmeriCorps looked like a pretty solid program/experience on paper, I was actually looking forward to it, and entered in with a hopeful attitude and lots of energy. Boy did I have no idea what the future had in store for me. It remains beyond me how a "program" designed to help the poor and homeless, particularly in a city like New York, can be so disfunctional and unorganized as to allow AmeriCorps members to suffer such boredom and demoralization after committing valuable time and energy to a something that deceivingly markets itself as something they clearly are not.

Anonymous said...

I am currently doing an AmeriCorps program. I don't know if I will make it through the end of my service time at this point because it is such an intolerable waste of time and I am spending more money than I earn (which is less than minimum wage) in the process. I strongly feel that I am getting nothing out of this program except maybe a sign that I should never go into non-profit as a career, based on all that I have dealt with and observed thus far. All I can say is, I sincerely hope this is rock bottom for me. I am sad and ashamed that at this point the only reason I am probably going to remain in the program is to avoid having a 9-month long gap on my resume. I hope to hear more comments from those out there who have experience with the travesty that is AmeriCorps.

Anonymous said...

All I can say is, after my experience thus far at AmeriCorps, I have found myself uttering the phrase, "the horror", many times throughout the day. I hope this experience is as close as I ever get to prison.

Anonymous said...

If I wanted to sit at a desk all day and perform menial data entry tasks while trying not to fall asleep, I would have definitely sought an office temp job. It would pay more, and might actually hold the potential of leading to an actual job.

Anonymous said...

Literally nothing more than sitting at a desk all day sometimes being given a monotonous data entry assignment, and helping out at a food pantry once a week for a few hours, which I could do as a volunteer anywhere. The difficult part is sitting stationary at that desk all week long, for 8+ hours a day, either checking my email 100 times, or entering names and addresses into a database, hour after hour after hour. I did expect that this program would be different (as in, not a complete and utter waste of time), but I suppose ultimately I have no one to blame but myself. If I had a better option right now, I'd be out of here in a heartbeat.

Anonymous said...

Three months left to go, can I make it that long? Three months is a long time to be sitting at a desk completely miserable. Prayer may be my only hope at this point. Doesn't anyone else post on this site anymore?

Anonymous said...

I may have been better off just moving back home with my parents than enrolling in this AmeriCorps program..

Anonymous said...

Yup, might have to move home with my parents and try to get a job at KFC. Oh joy.

Anonymous said...

Well, my AmeriCorps experience is a nightmare. And I'm sorry to say, not one that I expect to look back on with any learned lessons, perspective, skills, or knowledge. The only thing I have learned is that AmeriCorps is a waste of time, at least my particular program/situation. I thought I had been down to the depths of misery and hopelessness, but now, about 9 months into my program, I think I have hit a whole new level of despair. In this AmeriCorps "program", I literally have to sit at a desk all day in a small office with no air conditioning, and absolutely no personal space or privacy for hours on end. The people in the office that I work with I simply do not hit it off with, so to speak. We come from different places I guess. I just simply don't mesh with these people. The thing is, I have to sit in an open space five feet away from these people for 8 hours a day basically all week with virtually nothing to do or talk about. Every time I try to make small talk the conversation goes nowhere, except maybe to awkward-ville. They don't seem to like me, and well, honestly, I wouldn't mind not having to see them on a near constant basis myself, or ever again. The work I am given, although I don't mind doing it because it makes the nearly endless time pass by a little faster, is very demeaning - data entry, unlocking doors, and well, that's about it. I just expected to be doing more than this. Sitting around all day indoors in the hot summer heat on my ass for less than minimum wage is not what I had in mind when I began this program. I literally feel like I am in hell, and the only way to ease the pain is by getting up off my ass, which is currently stuck with sweat to the chair, and walking around outside aimlessly for a few minutes, and of course every time I do so my "co-workers" see me doing this and wonder where I am going, as they keenly watch me walk towards the door pretending I am looking at my phone as if I have anything better to do with my pathetic life than sit at the desk all day (year) long. I actually would rather exercise or do laundry than be here, anything seems more worthwhile and productive than what I do here. Clearly this looks like it will go down as one of the biggest mistakes of my life, and I ultimately have only myself to blame for not finding something better to do with my time than this.

Anonymous said...

Anyone out there know what happens if I complete my 12 months of service for AmeriCorps (not vista), but am short of my required hours for the year?

Anonymous said...

Anyone alive out there?

Anonymous said...

I'm with you.... I'm a VISTA too. Someone is out there! Althought I can't really comfort you in any way, except to say you are not alone.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the details!

Anonymous said...

And no that does not help me or anyone else who has posted on this site, but maybe it helps your ego?

Anonymous said...

Does anyone know if there is anybody (aside from a priest, or anyone/ anything affiliated with my sketchy AmeriCorps program) with whom I can discuss my overwhelming, severe discontent with every aspect of my AmeriCorps program? I literally feel like I am about to break down here. This is truly the worst experience I have had in my adult life, and it is only getting worse.

Anonymous said...

I have about 3 months remaining in my 1 year of AmeriCorps service. I could see myself lasting here for another few weeks at most, but 3 months I feel is stretching it beyond reason, to say the least. I am seriously thinking about quitting, but my concern is that I don't know if I would be able to put it on my resume or not, because I would not have completed the so called "program", and also I have absolutely no back-up plan and would probably end up moving back home with my parents at age 33 feeling their eyes of disappointment burn a hole through my back every five seconds. Believe me, if this AmeriCorps experience was anything but utterly God awful I wouldn't consider quitting so far into the game, but recently things seem to be getting to a point where it is becoming unbearable. To clarify, things seem to be going from downhill to veering off the edge of a cliff. Before you reply with a comment like "things can't be so bad, what's the problem?", please see details below:

No work to do, done asking for work to do because there never is any work to. My main, and only, responsibilities consist of sitting at a desk all day three feet away from my supervisor in a small, non-airconditioned office, occasionally being assigned menial data entry (inputting names and addresses into a database), answering the phone for the director who is apparently too lazy to do so, dropping off deposits at the bank for the site, locking and unlocking doors for people, sometimes counting up the already recorded number of adults, children, and seniors that were present at the weekly food pantry/soup kitchen, which I attend for the sole purpose of standing around awkwardly while normal volunteers do normal volunteer work. Furthermore, I am treated like a mentally challenged child, not given any real responsibility, monitored under heavy supervision, and subjected to the stress and lack of productivity that results from severe disorganization on the part of the directors. I am not learning anything new in the process, the tasks that I am assigned are the most menial, degrading things I have ever done, and even these tasks are monitored, supervised, and critiqued so heavily that it zaps me of any motivation to even do them and degrades me to the lowest level of self I possess, beneath which only lies me crying in a corner or huddled up in the fetal position. I have been merely counting down the hours and days until completion for weeks/months now after having gradually come to the official sad and disgusting realization of just how bad this program is in every way, shape, and form. I am on site #2 now, having already gotten a transfer on account of my previous supervisor being a mean, conniving psychopath (I wish I was kidding).
I just wish I had other AmeriCorps people in my program to commiserate with or something so I didn't feel so utterly alone. But every time I go to our utterly pointless AmeriCorps bi-weekly meetings, I find myself surrounded by the same group of people droning on and on about utter nonsense for hours while I try to disguise my feelings of frustration and misery. Prayer may be my only hope now.

Anonymous said...

My advice, based on my experience with AmeriCorps: Do AmeriCorps if you would like to enter an alternate, nearly backwards world of disorganization and misery which is void of any real productivity. If you would like to waste a year of your life doing this program, I would highly advise against doing so. Again this is based on my sole experience as an AmeriCorps member, by all means investigate/research further into it if you are considering the program. But all I can tell you, as a college-educated, decently intelligent individual who has completed several internships and jobs in the real world, my AmeriCorps program is a complete and utter waste of time, and I feel like I would be better of doing virtually anything else. Please, consider other volunteer/service programs, or consider a temp job doing data entry, before enrolling in AmeriCorps. It is so appalling I don't even have the words to express at this juncture.

Anonymous said...

Knew the pay would suck going into AmeriCorps, so I can't complain about that. But had I known that my year of "service" would consist of me sitting at a desk all year long surrounded only by unorganized, annoying supervisors who give me virtually no work or responsibility but yet continue to "supervise" me every day, I probably would have never enrolled in this "program".

Anonymous said...

Lord Christ please save me from this miserable situation.

Anonymous said...

Read this article:

http://www.enterstageright.com/archive/articles/1000americorps.htm

Anonymous said...

AmeriCorps should be canned. People are ten times better off volunteering their time independently than through the beauracratic confines of AmeriCorps, with all its disorganization and even fraud that leaks from its illusionary veneer of altruism.

Anonymous said...

"This is the bitterest pain among men, to have much knowledge but no power." -Herodotus

Anonymous said...

Based on my experience, do AmeriCorps if:

a) You can find absolutely nothing else to do for one year

or

b) If you are interested in spending one year of your life doing nothing productive.

Anonymous said...

I am 7/10 done the program and so excited to get the f out of this tucked in grey shirt and khakis dumb ass government program. My team leader... sucks.. my project...sucks. I was called on disaster and now am working in a dumb ass call center, and don't even have the authority to really help people, all I can do is send them off chasing another phone number. Its not what I signed up for at all. I want to be doing the hands on stuff but I am in an office, answering a phone. Its a waste of time. Its a waste of taxpayers money. I have gained 20 pounds since entering the program. I just do not like the way things are ran. Sometimes I thought about quitting but then I decided it was dumb to give up on something so easy. And now that I am 7 months into it, it just doesn't make sense. I wish I had a better reason to stay. I am excited for the education award and stuff, but just hate the work. My team is chill but I really think there is more important stuff to be doing then redirecting people to other phone numbers. Its so dumb. Maybe i'm just having a bad week, or month.. but really I can not wait to go home. Maybe thats how one gets when being home and being in such an uncomfortable place, but I just think its more than that. I don't see how me answering this dumb ass phone is helping the world. I want to make a difference, and americorps has shown me how not to.

Anonymous said...

Just about all I do at my AmeriCorps site is answer the phone, even though I was told by AmeriCorps that this should not be the case. My supervisor just sits there and rarely takes the calls, even when they are legitimate calls, and she knows I do not have the answer to half of their questions, given that I have not been here for 15 years like she has. So she, along with the other director and volunteer, typically just sit there and watch me struggle in frustration and boredom, most likely for their own amusement because they have no other sources of amusement in their lives. This has been a truly horrendous experience.

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