Chapter 10: AmeriCorps VISTA Leaders



Just as AmeriCorps VISTA members work to expand and build the capacity of community projects, Leaders work to expand and build the capacity of individual AmeriCorps VISTA members and their respective service sites. Leaders have demonstrated leadership skills and qualities during their initial term(s) of service and have accepted a new level of responsibility.


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Thumbnail for [node:title][user:name][comment:title] The aim of a VISTA Leader is to expand and build the capacity of the VISTAs (and VISTA Summer Associates) they lead, in coordination with the projects in which they serve. Leaders provide support and coordination for members to increase the project's impact. VISTA Leaders are not, and do not function as, CNCS employees or employees of the sponsoring organization.  VISTA Leaders are not permitted to perform staffing, administrative or supervisory functions for their sponsoring organizations. Hence, they do not supervise other AmeriCorps VISTA members, the sponsoring organization staff, or community volunteers. VISTA Leaders do not replace the VISTA supervisor or any other sponsoring organization staff.  

AmeriCorps VISTA Leaders are assigned by the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) to projects or regions to assist sponsoring organizations in achieving program objectives and developing new project activities and sources of community support. Leaders set an example of leadership for AmeriCorps VISTA members, ensure positive relations, facilitate idea-sharing, and mediate issues with the community, project, supervisors, and AmeriCorps VISTA members. Leaders also play a support role in recruiting, mentoring, and coordinating AmeriCorps VISTA members.
VISTA Leaders have successfully completed at least one year of VISTA service, or one full term of full-time service (serving 1,700 hours or more) with either AmeriCorps State and National or AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps (NCCC), or at least one traditional term of Peace Corps service.  VISTA Leaders must also demonstrate exemplary skills and leadership in community service. AmeriCorps VISTA Leaders have demonstrated leadership ability to work constructively with community volunteers, supervisors, sponsoring organizations, and the low-income community.
An AmeriCorps VISTA member is not entitled to an AmeriCorps VISTA Leader assignment for simply having satisfactorily completed a previous service assignment. It is solely up to the CNCS State Office to select which projects may have AmeriCorps VISTA Leaders, to determine the number of AmeriCorps VISTA Leaders that may serve at designated projects, and to select those who will serve as AmeriCorps VISTA Leaders.
If circumstances warrant, a Leader may be removed from the position and duties of an AmeriCorps VISTA Leader by the CNCS State Office. The AmeriCorps VISTA Leader regulations, Code of Federal Regulations, Title 45, Part 2556, detail the qualifications necessary to become an AmeriCorps VISTA Leader, the selection procedure, and roles of Leaders. Moreover, AmeriCorps VISTA Leaders are subject to the same requirements for proper conduct and satisfactory performance as AmeriCorps VISTA members. Accordingly, like members, Leaders are subject to the Early Termination for cause proceedings, set forth in AmeriCorps VISTA Early Termination regulations, Code of Federal Regulations, Title 45, Part 2556, Subpart E.

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AmeriCorps VISTA Leaders participate in a three-and-a-half-day VISTA Leader Orientation designed to provide the knowledge and skills to help recruit, coach, and coordinate teams of AmeriCorps VISTA members. Through training and hands-on experiences, Leaders gain transferable skills in communication, decision-making, conflict resolution and coaching, facilitation, and recruiting.
As an AmeriCorps VISTA Leader, you should attend Leader Orientation within the first two to three months of your term of service or the first available training event, with limited exceptions. Leaders who have not begun their term may attend the training if they will be placed within one month of the training.
Leader Orientation introduces you to your new role and equips you with a set of skills to help support AmeriCorps VISTA members and ensure that their projects are sustainable. The goals of Leader Orientation are to:
  • Communicate the roles and responsibilities of AmeriCorps VISTA Leaders
  • Equip Leaders with a set of leadership skills they can apply in their daily work
  • Establish a learning community among Leaders that will continue throughout their term of service
  • Train Leaders to be effective recruiters for AmeriCorps VISTA
  • Educate Leaders about the tools and resources available to them to support their roles and projects
  • Help Leaders to develop strategies and plan for effectively supporting their members and sustaining their projects
  • Facilitate information sharing and collaboration among Leaders working in similar issue areas
  • Inspire Leaders to complete a successful year of service


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CNCS limits the number of years served in the AmeriCorps VISTA program to a maximum of five years. An individual who has served only one year of service as a VISTA member may serve as a Leader for up to four years. An AmeriCorps VISTA Leader is not, however, guaranteed a second term as a Leader. To receive approval for reenrollment as a Leader, the Leader's service performance must be outstanding and the sponsoring organization and CNCS State Program Director must agree that it would benefit the project to reenroll the Leader for another year of service.


The process for applying to serve as a VISTA Leader is similar to the process for applying for a regular VISTA position or requesting re-enrollment or reinstatement. Eligible individuals complete an application using My AmeriCorps and submit it for an available VISTA Leader position. Returned Peace Corps Volunteers will be asked to submit a Description of Service as part of their application package. Currently serving VISTA members who wish to re-enroll as a VISTA Leader with the same sponsor complete the Future Plans Form and indicate re-enrollment.   


In rare instances, there may be a VISTA member who is serving a second or subsequent term when a VISTA Leader position at the sponsoring organization becomes vacant. In such cases, the sponsoring organization may recommend the promotion of the member to Leader if the member has successfully completed a full term of VISTA service and demonstrates exemplary skills and leadership in community service. A sponsoring organization may not recommend the promotion of a member to Leader midway through a member's first term of service. A member may become a Leader at some point in his or her second term of service providing the member plans to serve 12 months as a Leader.


Thumbnail for [node:title][user:name][comment:title] The AmeriCorps VISTA Leader has a distinct role within a sponsoring organization. Leaders coordinate and provide support to members, but they are not responsible for members. The project supervisor is directly responsible for the management of AmeriCorps VISTA members.
The Leader, however, is in a leadership role. At times, the Leader may serve as a mediator, a facilitator, an adviser, or a trainer. The supervisor and AmeriCorps VISTA Leader should make sure VISTA members understand the Leader's role and responsibilities.
The supervisor/sponsoring organization should not expect Leaders to take on roles similar to those of members in addition to their Leader roles and responsibilities. For example, if a Leader coordinates a project that involves eight members who implement literacy programs at six different sites, the Leader should not be expected to implement a literacy program.


Several states, because of their size and geography, have assigned Leaders regionally. These Leaders serve on an AmeriCorps VISTA project and support not only their own project's AmeriCorps VISTA members, but also members serving with other projects in a specified area. This type of assignment is acceptable for Leaders as long as:
  • Leaders are supervised by a single AmeriCorps VISTA supervisor/sponsoring organization
  • Project sponsors involved agree with the proposal
  • Leaders do not operate in a CNCS State Office or sponsoring organization staff role


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Thumbnail for [node:title][user:name][comment:title] AmeriCorps VISTA leaders are eligible for an additional $200 per month in their living allowance, effective on the date of their Leader assignment. If, however, the $200-per-month increase raises the living allowance above the federal or state minimum wage (whichever is higher), the Leader must be given the option to:
  • Keep the lower living allowance to retain public assistance payments
  • Accept the allowance increase, with the understanding that it may jeopardize the eligibility for, or level of, public assistance or other governmental payments
See VISTA Living Allowance Rates by County for more information about the living allowance rate in the area where you serve. The living allowance is subject to federal tax. As a result, the amounts that appear in the chart are reflective of the rate before federal taxes are deducted. 


All AmeriCorps VISTA Leaders receive the same health care benefits as VISTA members, in accordance with the provisions of the administrative contract between CNCS and the benefits provider.


Leaders who have not already received two Segal AmeriCorps Education Award enrollments may opt for the education award. Leaders who opt for an education award cannot also receive an end-of-service stipend.


Leaders who do not choose the education award receive an end-of-service cash stipend upon completion of their full term of service as a Leader. Leaders who elect to receive an end-of-service stipend cannot also receive an education award.

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