May 16, 2007

VISTA positions available with Connect SI

by Christi Mathis

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Southern Illinoisans can gain valuable experience, help the region, and boost their income and education funding by becoming Volunteers in Service to America (VISTA) workers through Connect SI.

Connect SI, a Southern Illinois University project, is partnering with the Illinois Institute for Rural Affairs and the Corporation for National Service to offer four positions in the VISTA program to aid regional economic and community development.

For 12 months, the VISTA workers will work in one of the following regions: Greater Egypt, Greater Wabash, Southern Five or Southeastern Illinois. They'll receive health care and an $854 monthly stipend. When their work year is complete, they'll receive a $4,725 education allowance to apply to previous or future educational expenses. Those who don't need the educational award will receive instead a $1,200 end-of-service award. Depending upon performance, funding and by mutual agreement between VISTA and Connect SI, it's possible a second year of service may be an option.

Connect SI is a 20-county community and economic development initiative using broadband Internet access as the technology to enable growth of knowledge-based employment opportunities and enterprises throughout Southern Illinois. Executive Director Rex Duncan said health care is the leading industry in the movement and the goal of the initiative is to create a prosperous, manageable, sustainable local economy that can compete globally.

VISTA's mission is "to increase the capacity of low-income people to improve the condition of their lives" and nearly 6,000 VISTA members serve hundreds of non-profit organizations and public agencies across the country each year.

The Connect SI VISTA workers will be extensively involved in community organization, public speaking and with media contacts during their 40-hour work weeks. Since the mission of Connect SI revolves around connectivity, the workers must be literate in Internet and computer use. They must have reliable transportation as well. The Corporation for National Service provides entry-level and ongoing training and the workers will also be involved in Connect SI meetings and training sessions.

"I've worked with the AmeriCorps programs previously and I know they get things done," Duncan said. "Having VISTA members on board the Connect SI effort will be a great asset for us at the local level. They will be the eyes and ears of an initiative that can help the entire region achieve the levels of prosperity we've dreamed of."

Applications are available at Applicants should apply as soon as possible to Illinois Institute for Rural Affairs/Connect SI (Listing ID number: IL013251-4). Service will begin immediately after training is completed.

Connect SI is housed within the office of SIU President Glenn Poshard, who chairs its advisory committee. For more information about Connect SI or to inquire about having someone speak about the program to an area organization, call Duncan at 618/536-3460 or e-mail