The service year for Digital Arts Service Corps members starts and ends in July. The application process for the 2010-2011 DASCorps year has ended but next year’s process will begin in spring 2011. If you are an organization in need of a Digital Arts Service Corps member please contact our Program Direction, Ben Sheldon.
All applicants must be a US Citizen, at least 18 years old, and have experience or education in the field.
Benefits of Service
Even though the pay is low AmeriCorps*VISTA provides a number of tangible benefits including an end of the year cash reward, putting your student loans on hold, health benefits, and more.
Every AmeriCorps*VISTA receives a bi-weekly paycheck the size of which is determined by the poverty level of the city where they are serving. In 2010-2011 bi-weekly paychecks ranged from $410 - $584.
Additional Living Assistance
Every host organization that is approved to receive a Digital Arts Service Corps member must provide some form of additional support. This could come in the form of rental assistance, transportation assistance, or a prepaid grocery card.
End of Service Benefits
After successfully completing a year of service, VISTA members are eligible for either (not both):
- $5,350 Education Award to pay for college tuition or pay-off qualified student loans: it expires after 7 years, or
- $1,500 Cash Stipend that is paid as a lump sum in their last paycheck.
A full year – 12 months – of service must be completed in order to receive one of these benefits. Except in exceedingly rare circumstances (death in your immediate family, personal catastrophic health problem or the complete dissolution of the Transmission Project and Digital Arts Service Corps) these benefits will not be prorated if the VISTA terminates or leaves early. All or nothing, basically.
Student Loan Deferment
During VISTA service, payments on student loans may be delayed through either deferment or forbearance:
- Loan Deferment means that payments do not have to be made and no interest accrues
- Loan Forbearance means that you don’t have to make payment, but interest dues accrue. If the Education Award is selected, the Corporation for National and Community Service will pay the interest that does accrue on all qualified student loans.
Not all loans are eligible to be paid off by the Education Award. Only qualified student loans can be repaid with the Education Award.
National Service legislation defines a “qualified student loan” as an educational loan backed by the federal government or a state agency. The most common are subsidized and unsubsidized Stafford loans, William D. Perkins Direct loans, Federal Consolidated loans and subsidized and unsubsidized Ford loans. If you have a Perkins loan, you may qualify for a partial cancellation of your loan.
Call your lender to make sure that you’re loan is eligible for deferral or forbearance, or is qualified for use with the Education Award!
You can learn more about loan postponements, interest payments, and financial aid by visiting the official AmeriCorps website.
Health, Childcare and Other Benefits
AmeriCorps*VISTA service may expose members to some of the hardships experienced by the 40 million Americans who are living in poverty. While these do place increased burdens upon their daily life, the Digital Arts Service Corps, the Transmission Project, and every host organization is aware of this and makes allowances for the extra time one may need to spend on seeking care or services.
Because of federal laws, most social services, such as food stamps or childcare, are not affected by the AmeriCorps living allowance if you sign up for them prior to becoming an AmeriCorps*VISTA member. Below is more information on specific social services one may wish to pursue prior to becoming a VISTA – though you probably will still be eligible if you sign up after your AmeriCorps service begins.
Official Health Benefits
AmeriCorps*VISTA members receive health benefits (though not technically health
insurance) through the Corporation for National Service managed Seven Corners health plan. In brief, this plan covers catastrophic injury (e.g. anytime you are in pain) and prescription drugs, but not preventative health (e.g. general physicals). Many questions can be answered on their Frequently Asked Questions:americorps.sevencorners.com/faq or by calling them at (866) 699-4186
For a list of doctors, visit http://americorps.sevencorners.com/providers.htm
Alternative Healthcare Options
If a parent or spouse’s healthcare plan already covers you, you can elect to opt-out of the official AmeriCorps healthcare plan.
Your state may provide free or reduced-cost healthcare for low-income individuals that is superior to or less expensive than the healthcare offered through AmeriCorps. Check your states website to learn what health options may be available (look for links to Health): www.firstgov.gov
You may be eligible for childcare, but we highly recommend contacting the Transmission Project before your Pre-Service Orientation in order to go over your options. Dependent children must be under 13 years of age and live with you. AmeriCorps’ childcare is limited to $300 per month per family regardless of the number of children. More information can be found at .naccrra.org/americorps
SNAP (Food Stamps)
As a VISTA, you should be eligible for food stamps because of your monthly income. You may receive as much as $200 per month for food stamps, which can mean the difference between making and breaking your budget. But, your eligibility may also depend on your current assts such as savings, stocks or retirement accounts: usually less than $2,000 but check your local requirements.
Proof of Income and Service
Contact the Transmission Project for a letter certifying your VISTA service and monthly income (or download one here). Most public service programs will require proof of income or evidence that you are serving as an AmeriCorps*VISTA member. The Transmission Project can also be helpful if your local social service office doesn’t want to provide you benefits to which you are legally entitled.
Trainings and Professional Development
Being a member of the Digital Arts Service Corps also gives you access to a number of training opportunities, workshops, and conferences at no expense to the VISTA.
Before your year of service begins every DASCorps member attends a Pre Service Orientation organized by the Massachusetts State AmeriCorps office and the Transmission Project. During this 5-day training DASCorps members will receive an introduction into the field of public media and technology and how their role as Vistas fits into that field. Travel to and from PSO, Room and Board, and all trainings are free for DASCorps members.
One National Conference
Every DASCorps member will attend at least one national conference during his or her year of service. Each host organization has budgeted up to $1000 to send their DASCorps members to a national conference in the field of public media and technology. The $1000 allotted can be used for food, hotel, registration, and transportation. The funds can only be used for one national conference; it cannot be split and used for two separate events. In past years DASCorps members have been to NTEN’s Nonprofit Technology Conference, Alliance for Community Media’s National Conference, South By Southwest’s Interactive week, DrupalCon and more.
The DASCorps VISTA Leaders will be sending out interesting conferences over the list serve through the year but if you would like to be proactive ask your supervisor, coworkers, fellow DASCorps members, your leaders, or Transmission Project staff for their suggestions on conferences that they think will benefit your work. Also its better to attend a conference earlier on during your year of service so you can take advantage of the contacts you have made. The Transmission Project keeps a list of events on their website which includes online, regional and national trainings.
In Service Training Funds (IST Funds)
AmeriCorps*VISTA members are encouraged to seek out professional development opportunities and trainings. During the first 5 months of service, members are eligible to have up to $150 of training fees (though not transportation or lodging if out-of-area) reimbursed. Trainings must relate to the member's service and members cannot take more than 1 college-level course (for credit) at a time (and must receive prior approval).
Send us (firstname.lastname@example.org) an email at least 2 weeks before the training stating:
- Official course events/description and cost, preferably a website link to the course;
- Place, date and time (or duration) of training;
- Brief description of how this course will support you in your assignment;
- State in your request that your Supervisor has approved the training, and cc them in the email request
Once you receive approval and register for the course, you will be asked to submit your receipt for reimbursement.
|August 23, 2010||July 27 - August 9, 2010|
|September 6, 2010||August 10 - August 23, 2010|
|September 20, 2010||August 24 - September 6, 2010|
|October 4, 2010||September 7 - September 20, 2010|
|October 18, 2010||September 21 - October 4, 2010|
|November 1, 2010||October 5 - October 18, 2010|
|November 15, 2010||October 19 - November 1, 2010|
|November 29, 2010||November 2 - November 15, 2010|
|December 13, 2010||November 16 - November 29, 2010|
|December 27, 2010||November 30 - December 13, 2010|
|January 10, 2011||December 14 - December 27, 2010|
|January 24, 2011||December 28 - January 10, 2011|
|February 7, 2011||January 11 - January 24, 2011|
|February 21, 2011||January 25 - February 7, 2011|
|March 7, 2011||February 8 - February 21, 2011|
|March 21, 2011||February 22 - March 7, 2011|
|April 4, 2011||March 8 - March 21, 2011|
|April 18, 2011||March 22 - April 4, 2011|
|May 2, 2011||April 5 - April 18, 2011|
|May 16, 2011||April 19 - May 2, 2011|
|May 30, 2011||May 3 - May 16, 2011|
|June 13, 2011||May 17 - May 30, 2011|
|June 27, 2011||May 31 - June 13, 2011|
|July 11, 2011||June 14 - June 27, 2011|
|July 25, 2011||June 28 - July 11, 2011|
|August 8, 2011||July 12 - July 25, 2011|
|August 22, 2011||July 26 - July 30, 2011|
The last day of the 2010-2011 service year is July 30, 2011.
Note: Because the last pay period is only 5 days and VISTAs usually receive a check for 2 weeks of work, the final living stipend paycheck will by 5/14 of what they are use to receiving.