C3 Twin Cities is a very unique VISTA cohort sponsored by the Jay & Rose Phillips Family Foundation of Minnesota. They truly value our time and effort, and show their appreciation by providing us with some perks. There have been several occasions in which I have heard my fellow VISTAs from other cohorts remark, “I wish I was in the Phillips cohort,” or, “Wow, you get so much extra help!” These statements are delivered with a tinge of jealousy–as they should be! Few cohorts enjoy the same benefits we also enjoy, and I would like to showcase 10 examples for you:
1. Professional Development Days
C3 Twin Cities hosts professional development days twice a month for the cohort. This provides valuable learning opportunities from nonprofit professionals all across the metro area. Accessing this as a group gives us the space to process each new insight together.
2. Free Food!
Every professional development day has breakfast and a catered lunch. I mean, who doesn’t want to eat bagels, fruit, make-your-own parfaits, and sometimes even donuts? For lunch we get to have something different and delicious every other Friday. Some of our favorites have been from Pimento, Crescent Moon, and Afro Deli. C3 Twin Cities also mainly supports businesses owned by people of color and women! Plus, there’s unlimited coffee, water, and other beverages.
3. Transportation Stipend
This extra perk can make a big difference. VISTAs who commute with a car receive a $50 gas card from SuperAmerica every month. Those who use public transportation receive a Metro Transit 31-Day Pass on a Go-To card, which renews monthly.
4. A $400 Professional Development Fund
Arguably one of the most important benefits while being a VISTA are the ample opportunities for professional development. While there are a lot opportunities included as part of the C3 Twin Cities program, there are also many other types opportunities across the region. This fund can cover the fees associated with attending an event you choose to help foster your own professional growth. For instance, I have attended various conferences, database development trainings, writing workshops, and facilitation trainings. Soon, I will be attending a training on confronting racism. Some folks use it for their next professional step, like taking the GRE, or buying LSAT prep books. It’s an awesome way to be able to go into further depth on specific topics we may not cover on full cohort days.
5. Strong Cohort Community
The cohort sees each other a minimum of every other week, so naturally, friendships develop. Breakfast and lunch act as a social hour for us. Not only does this prime us for connecting with our cohort in the various places our lives take us after our VISTA service, this strong community is an amazing support network that we can lean on. This is a huge blessing.
Coco is a steadfast advocate for you. Plus she is a fun and cool person to spend time with.
7. C3 is Social Justice Oriented
C3 strives to bring awareness to cohort members on a variety of social justice issues through the group activities and the speakers they provide. For example, we recently learned about the history of the Rondo neighborhood in Saint Paul, and connected that to a discussion about the upcoming construction of the MetroTransit Blue Line extension. This helps us stay informed about the issues affecting the communities we work with.
Committees give us a chance to hang out with cohort members while learning and refining different skills. Through the Yearbook, Events, Blogging, and Social Media committees, we have a way to form strong relationships with our cohort members and play a bigger role in the cohort. It’s also a way for us to take ownership over parts of the C3 program.
Our unique sub-cohort system fosters collaboration across sectors. C3 Twin Cities has three sub-cohorts: Community Wealth Building, Education, and Opportunity Youth. Periodic meetings and shared goals make it possible for cohort members to collaborate. For example, the current Opportunity Youth sub-cohort are collectively sharing and designing a database of short term job trainings throughout the Twin Cities.
10. C3 is Constantly Growing
The C3 Twin Cities program is always looking for ways to further support us while we serve as VISTAs. For example, starting with the 2017-2018 cohort, C3 will be adding a housing stipend. Every benefit possibly available as an AmeriCorps VISTA is explained in detail, and every perk received from being part of C3 is highlighted. With all of the supports that currently exist, and with the mindset of what they could do in the future to further support VISTAs, C3 Twin Cities is definitely a step ahead of other cohorts, and a superior service experience.