Allison Fazio’s 525,600 Minutes
How do you measure a year? That is a question Allison Fazio is going to have no trouble answering next August when she finishes her year at United Way of Medina County. Allison is an AmeriCorps VISTA. In this case, “Vista” does not mean a lovely view, it’s an acronym for “Volunteer In Service To America.” The position lasts one full year, and Allison has been selected to serve with us at United Way as a member of the Employing Medina County program team.
But before we get to Allison’s story, a little history. In 1965, AmeriCorps emerged as the domestic version of the Peace Corps. In 1993, a new branch, AmeriCorps VISTA, was created with the mission of fighting poverty in the United States, and it is still going strong today. Participants apply for posted positions and AmeriCorps VISTA then places accepted applicants with agencies and organizations all over the United States. Members work on local projects that tackle poverty from various angles.
Back to Allison. Last year, Allison graduated from Ole Miss (a.k.a. University of Mississippi). She returned home to Medina and found herself with a common problem new graduates can face: lack of experience. She applied for many jobs but was routinely told she needed more experience. How was she supposed to get experience, she asked herself, when no one was willing to give her a job to get the experience they wanted her to have? She kept looking, however, and somewhat serendipitously came across an online application for AmeriCorps VISTA.
If you think she merely checked a box on their website and they said, “Report here,” you are sorely mistaken. AmeriCorps VISTA takes a select number of applicants each year. Aside from filling out an application, candidates must also demonstrate certain skills, provide references and interview for the desired position. While the position is not volunteer per se, the pay is set to 105% above the poverty level. This is not reflective of the skill requirements or the value of the work done, but instead it is meant to convey the struggle of poverty on a personal level.
Currently, Allison works with Debbie Boehmke, Program Manager of Employing Medina County, to help people who are unemployed or underemployed in the county become financially stable through employment. Members tackle resolving barriers, learn networking skills, have help tuning up their resumes, and discuss real solutions to financial goals.
“I like United Way because it doesn’t just focus on solving problems for one group. We deal with low income and basic need situations for individuals, families and people who need second chances,” Allison commented.
The AmeriCorps VISTA program offers a win-win situation for all involved. At the end of the year, United Way will have benefitted from having an energetic and committed employee, and Allison will have gained an immeasurable amount of experience that will undoubtedly propel her to her next position.