Iowa and Minnesota Merge VISTA Programs for Impact and Efficiency

July 22, 2019

As a part of a new strategic alliance, Iowa and Minnesota Campus Compact today announced the merger of the VISTA Community Corps and VISTA Health Corps into one two-state AmeriCorps VISTA Program. The program now sites across both states with members building capacity for community-campus partnerships in health, education, and economic opportunity. This summer, 27 full-time members are starting service with 23 nonprofit organizations and campus partners in 15 communities across the two states. Meet the members.

“Merging the two programs allows us to partner with more organizations, reduce administrative burdens, and improve outcomes,” said Executive Director Emily Shields.

AmeriCorps VISTA is an anti-poverty, capacity-building federal national service program with a more than 50-year history of impact. Both Iowa and Minnesota Campus Compact have managed successful VISTA programs for more than 10 years and this merger represents the next evolution of that success.

The merger allows for the expansion of successful models. Among the sites and focus areas are six member campuses in Minnesota working to address non-academic, low-income student needs to improve retention. According to the latest #RealCollege survey report from The Hope Center, 45% of college student respondents were food insecure in the prior 30 days, 56% of respondents were housing insecure in the previous year, and 17% of respondents were homeless in the previous year. VISTA members are supporting strategic efforts to address these issues through research, community partnerships, policy change, and more.

The program has also built support for community organizations by working to connect them to the unique support and partnership with member colleges and universities. Willis Dady Homeless Services in Cedar Rapids, IA has been a partner in the program for several years. They have three unique VISTA projects that are leveraging campus-community partnerships to build the capacity of their organization and better serve their community. The Volunteer Coordinator VISTA project has saved the organization more than $40,000 annually in staff costs by building a strong volunteer management program that includes partnerships with Coe College and Mount Mercy University for ongoing volunteer support. Learn more about the focus areas and sites for the program below. Contact Monique Ellefson if your organization is interested in partnering with this program.

Health Corps

Health Corps members support sites in long-term approaches to the social determinants of health. This includes meeting low-income student needs and a variety of projects with health-focused community organizations.

Sites:

  • Anoka-Ramsey Community College, Coon Rapids, MN
  • BrightSide Produce, St. Paul, MN
  • Community Action Center, Northfield, MN
  • Hamline University, St. Paul, MN
  • Imagine Grinnell (supported by the Claude and Dolly Ahrens Foundation), Grinnell, IA
  • National Kidney Foundation Serving Minnesota, St. Paul, MN
  • Normandale Community College, Bloomington, MN
  • North Hennepin Community College, Brooklyn Park, MN
  • Open Door Health Center, Mankato, MN
  • Rochester Community Schools, Rochester, MN
  • St. Mary’s University of Minnesota Schools of Graduate and Professional Programs, Minneapolis, MN
  • Southwest Minnesota State University, Marshall, MN
  • University of Minnesota – Center for Health Interprofessional Programs (CHIP), Minneapolis, MN
  • University of Minnesota – College of Pharmacy, Duluth, MN

Education Corps

Education Corps members support sites in long-term approaches to issues related to K-12 educational success and college access including literacy programs.

Sites:

  • Cedar Rapids Public Library, Cedar Rapids, IA
  • Central College, Pella, IA
  • City of Dubuque Human Rights Department, Dubuque, IA
  • The Harkin Institute at Drake University, Des Moines, IA
  • United Way of East Central Iowa, Cedar Rapids, IA

Opportunity Corps

Opportunity Corps members support sites in long-term approaches to issues related to personal economic success including housing and employment support.

Sites:

  • Catherine McAuley Center, Cedar Rapids, IA (two members)
  • Des Moines Civil and Human Rights, Des Moines, IA (two members)
  • Willis Dady Homeless Services, Cedar Rapids, IA (three members)