Becoming a VISTA Aligns member is a unique and challenging opportunity that may not be for everyone. The modest stipend raises various challenges. However, the benefits and personal fulfillment of serving your community outweigh those challenges in many cases. In addition, VISTAs receive health benefits, tuition assistance, job training and professional development.
Though the program is challenging, it is equally rewarding.
“The AmeriCorps VISTA program has completely changed my life – opening my heart and mind to the unique challenges of our community,” said Blair Castro, Communications Coordinator VISTA for Achieve Escambia. “Working at Achieve has helped shape me both professionally and personally - allowing me the opportunity to learn from respected local change-makers and visionaries. Having grown up in West Pensacola and having attended Escambia County public schools, and now with two kids of my own in our school system, I was inspired to give back to the hometown that I love by dedicating a year of my life to service”. Blair added, “Though taking an oath of poverty and living off a small salary can sometimes be difficult, there is nothing more rewarding than knowing your work is making an impact in the lives of those who, in turn, consistently impact you. For those that feel a sense of community and believe that we are all connected, the AmeriCorps VISTA program is incredibly fulfilling.”
Blake Majzun, VISTA Aligns Leader, oversees 13 VISTA Aligns members at 11 partner agencies. Before starting at United Way, Blake served as a VISTA for three consecutive years with BRACE. “I have made it a point to still go to school while I serve and I have had to make some sacrifices when it comes to that,” he acknowledged. “I was a full time student at UWF, and then I started AmeriCorps, and had to take full time classes and full time work. I knew I could not maintain both good grades and service to the community while living as far away as I do. So I had to go to school part-time, and sometimes still do not have time to fully commit to my studies, but at least I can still make good grades and serve my community.”
“However, I committed to helping the community, and I have met so many wonderful people volunteering here," said Blake. "Some serve as AmeriCorps members, and others run the nonprofits that we support. In my time volunteering, I have met many new friends - some of them are even going to be in my wedding and I can’t be happier. It feels so good when after an exhausting day looking after kids or handing out food to families that need them, knowing that you just impacted someone’s life so they could better themselves or inspire them to help others.”
Currently there are eight open VISTA positions throughout Escambia County. If you wish to apply for a VISTA position, you will need to submit your resume and cover letter to firstname.lastname@example.org. To learn more about VISTA ALIGNS, click here or call United Way at 850-434-3157.