This is the first post in our blog series highlighting the different programs in New York Immigration Coalition (NYIC). Check back every week to learn more about the programs that help advocate for New York’s immigrant communities!
The Membership and Capacity Building (MCB) program at NYIC seeks to build relationships with different organizations that support immigrant communities. It also seeks to support NYIC’s member organizations through membership benefits and trainings. One sub-program of Membership & Capacity that makes this possible is the NYIC AmeriCorp VISTA program, run out of MCB. This sub-program focuses on placing individuals in paraprofessional positions in organizations that work to fight poverty in immigrant communities.
I sat down with Kiwi Grady, New America Volunteer coordinator, to learn more about the NYIC VISTA program.
Kiwi (on the far right) with three VISTAs
What is the focus and goal of your program area?
The NYIC VISTA program places individuals in paraprofessional positions - referred to as NYIC VISTA positions - that are hosted by the NYIC or NYIC nonprofit Member organizations. At their host sites, NYIC VISTAs work on capacity building projects - such as fundraising, volunteer management, and communications - that support the host sites in being able to offer immigrant and refugee-focused anti-poverty direct services to community members.
The NYIC VISTA program is a part of the national AmeriCorps VISTAs program which is overseen by the Corporation for National and Community Service.
When is the application process and what should an applicant expect once he or she is accepted?
We are currently recruiting people for 13 NYIC VISTA positions, which are all currently scheduled to begin on August 22. These positions will each last a year, are full-time and will operate out of organizations based in New York City, Westchester, Buffalo and Albany.
The people who end up filling the positions will go through a 3-day training during their first week of service. The training will cover core skill sets, NYIC VISTA focus areas, and immigration issues and their intersections with poverty issues.
Following the training, the NYIC VISTAs will begin working on their assigned duties at their host sites and will continue to be supported by the NYIC through monthly check-in meetings, monthly professional development webinars, volunteer activities during AmeriCorps National Days of Service, and more.
How does the NYIC VISTA program support immigrant communities?
NYIC VISTAs work on the backend of important services and programs - such as legal services, ESL classes and business development trainings - that support immigrants in increasing their access to economic opportunity. NYIC VISTAs support these types of programs by developing the program’s curriculum and resources; by developing systems and tools to make the programs more effective and/or efficient; by promoting the programs through general communications and community outreach; by making the programs possible through fundraising; by increasing capacity to run the programs through volunteer management; and much more.
What are some successes the VISTA program has seen so far?
In addition to the capacity-building and anti-poverty work already discussed, I think one of the biggest success stories coming out of our program is simply the career development support it has provided to people serving as NYIC VISTAs. Most NYIC VISTAs are young adults who have recently graduated from college and are looking to gain more experience before entering a professional position or pursuing grad school. After completing their VISTA position, many of the people in our program were able to quickly secure professional employment, and oftentimes at the very organizations that were hosting them as VISTAs.
What other support does the Membership and Capacity Building program provide for organizations that work with the immigrant community?
We support NYIC Members organizations in learning about and engaging in the NYIC’s diverse collaborative working groups, campaigns and programs. We also support them in learning about and taking advantage of the NYIC’s Membership benefits which include but are not limited to regrants, discounts on trainings, eligibility to host paraprofessionals such as NYIC VISTAs, and much more!
What final thing would you want people know about your program?
AmeriCorps positions recently became open to DACA recipients. I am really excited about this development, as it allows a population that the NYIC actively supports to apply for NYIC VISTA positions, in addition to other AmeriCorps positions around the country.