AmeriCorps Member FAQs
- What kind of personal ID is required for enrollment?
For legal residents, one of the following:
- A birth certificate showing that you were born in one of the 50 states, the District of Columbia, Guam, the U.S. Virgin Islands, American Samoa or the Northern Marina Islands
- A current US passport
- A report of birth abroad of a US citizen (FS 240) issued by the State Department
- A certificate of birth-foreign service (DS-1350) issued by the State Department
- A certificate of naturalization (Form 550 or N-5700) issued by the Immigration and Naturalization Service
For lawful permanent residents, one of the following:
- Permenant Resident Card (INS Form I-551)
- A passport containing as INS stamp certifying approval of lawful admission for permenant residence
- An arrival record (INS Form I-94) indicating that the INS has approved it as temporary evidence of lawful admission for permanent residence
- Official Tribal ID Card or an "Indian Blood ID", with the possible exception of ID cards issued by some tribal entities that are on both sides of US/foreign borders (i.e., Blackfeet, Fort Belknap along the Canadian border, and Papago, Gila on the Arizona/Mexico border)
- Do I qualify to enroll as an SIS AmeriCorps Member?
You must be a part-time or full-time student at a participating SIS campus to be eligible. Once enrolled, you have 1 or 2 years (depending on your hour commitment) from your official enrollment date to complete your term of service. If you graduate, take a quarter, semester, or summer off, you still have 1 or 2 years from your official enrollment date to complete the program and must pass in all time logs and exit paperwork in a satisfactory manner to your SIS Campus Coordinator's office.
- How many AmeriCorps terms can I serve?
A person can be awarded up to 4 AmeriCorps education awards in a lifetime OR complete no more than 2.0 Member Service Years (MSY). One (1) Member Service Year is equivalent to a 1700 hour full-time AmeriCorps term or a year of AmeriCorps VISTA. See below for MSY equivalents:
300 Hour Term = .212 MSY
450 Hour Term = .265 MSY
900 Hour Term = .5 MSY
1700 Hour Term= 1.0 MSY
As you can calculate, it is possible to serve up to three SIS terms of service (300 or 450 hours) and still be eligible to serve a full-time term (1700 hours) of service with another AmeriCorps program. Alternatively, you may serve two 900 hour terms and still be eligible for a full-time term.
- Can I serve at more than one site?Yes you can. Each additional site requires an additional site agreement. Also, you must turn in separate timelogs each month signed by the site supervisor(s) from the corresponding site agreement.
- Can my direct service position be paid?The ONLY paid positions for which you can count SIS hours are positions that are Federal/State-funded Community Service Work Study positions. All other service must be non-paid (including internships, academic course-related service, and general volunteer service).
- Will my participation in SIS affect my disability benefits?You will not lose disability benefits as a result of participating in AmeriCorps. However, it is possible that the education award could trigger a decrease in monthly SSI benefits after you use it. There are several strategies for preventing any decrease or negative effect on disability benefits:
1. Members take advantage of work incentive options and income exclusions. Work incentives are special rules that allow persons with disabilities receiving SSDI or SSI to work and still receive monthly payments and Medicare or Medicaid. Participants can find out more about these incentives and options by calling 1-800-772-1213 or visiting the website at www.ssa.gov.
2. SSI recipients serving in AmeriCorps automatically qualify for the Student Child Earned income Exclusion if they are under the age of 22 and are neither married nor the head of household. This income exclusion can be up to $5,200.00 per year, far exceeding the education award amount.
3. If you use your education award voucher to pay for tuition fees and other necessary education expenses then the award does NOT count as taxable income and will not affect disability benefits. This exclusion does not cover amounts used or set aside for room and board or to repay qualified student loans.
If you use your education award to pay for current tuition costs at the institution at which you are currently enrolled, it will not affect your disability benefits because it will not count as taxable income.
Once your receive your education award voucher, direct your voucher (on your MyAmeriCorps online account) to your school's financial aid office. Make sure to check with the financial aid officer to be sure the award is applied to tuition costs and not to room and board. Other resources for Members with disabilities that further explain the above strategies can be found at www.ssa.gov/notices/supplemental-security-income/ and at www.ssa.gov/odhome. Information specific to AmeriCorps and disability is located at www.nationalservice.org/about/ogc/ac_disability.html.
- How do I update my name, DOB, or SSN?This will require documented proof (i.e. copy of driver's license, social security card, etc.) You can send a change request through your MyAmeriCorps Account. After you login, click the "Contact MyAmeriCorps" link on the top right of the page or the bottom of the left menu. From the dropdown, choose "Updating Personal Information." Let them know what you need to change. Someone will contact you shortly to let you know how/what documentation to send.
Note: to protect your privacy, please do not include your social security number or any other private information in the message.
- Is serving in a church soup kitchen a prohibited activity?You should first consider the type of the activity, and secondly the location. If you are serving food in a soup kitchen that happens to be in a church, that activity in and of itself is absolutely appropriate. The Students in Service program encourages partnering with faith-based organizations. However, if you are also expected, as part of the soup kitchen experience, to discuss or promote the particular ideology or mission of the hosting religious organization, that would be an example of an unacceptable direct service activity since you would be engaging in religious instruction or proselytizing. This may be a helpful example in determining prohibited activities.
- What if I lose track of how many hours I have served?Not a problem. Just email or call the SIS Coordinator on your campus; all your information is in a database we can easily access.
- What if I cannot complete my hours by the end of my term of service? Can I get an extension?The SIS program does not give extensions to a member who cannot complete their service hours on time. Also, the SIS program cannot change your term of service once you are enrolled.
- If I get sick and have to drop out of my service position, can I still receive part of my Education Award?
If you have a "compelling personal circumstance" like an illness, family illness, or military duty, and you have completed at least 15% of your service hours, you may be able to receive a partial education award. The Students in Service program Director or designee decides if a situation is a compelling personal circumstance (examples: a serious illness/injury to the member or a death in the member's immediate family). You must provide your SIS campus coordinator with an email or letter detailing your "compelling personal circumstance" before a decision can be made.
Another option may be to have your service term temporarily suspended while your health returns to the point you can continue to serve. To be eligible for this option you would need to send your SIS Campus Coordinator an email or letter detailing your compelling personal circumstance. Eligibility is decided on a case-by-case basis by the Director of designee. If you do get your term of service suspended you will not be able to serve and thus pass in time logs while you are in suspended status. Once you are healthy enough to begin serving your community again, you will need to contact your SIS campus coordinator to have your term reinstated. If you are suspended for 3 months, then your completion date will be extended by those 3 months. A student approval for a suspension cannot be back dated; suspension must be approved within 30 days of the date of suspension.
- If I do service projects on top of my AmeriCorps service, can these hours count?If the projects are in one of the areas of education, public safety, environmental initiative, community development, or human needs, and your supervisor can verify the hours, AND the hours are appropriate either for Direct Service hours (non-Prohibited Activities) or Member Development hours, then those hours can be counted. It is common for members to have more than one service site. Remember, you are required to submit a Site Agreement form for each service site. Each Site Agreement requires a separate Time Log each month. For example, if you serve at three sites in a month, you'll need to submit three Time Logs for that month.
- What do I do when I finish all of my hours?You are required to exit the program upon completion of the hours for your term of service. SIS expects members to complete and pass in exit paperwork with your final time log. The sooner you are officially exited, the sooner you can access your education award.
- What is loan forebearance?Forbearance means that you neither make payments nor pay interest on your loan(s) over a specified period. In other words, you will not have to make payments on your loan(s) while you serve. Then after you successfully complete service, the National Service Trust will pay the interest that gathered while you were a member.
- Why should I put my loans in forebearance?If you have qualified loans that are currently accumulating interest, the Corporation for National & Community Service (CNCS) will pay part of the interest accrued during your term of service. Putting your loans on forbearance notifies CNCS of your current loans. If you don't put your loans on forbearance CNCS will not partially pay your accrued interest at the end of your term.
- Can I participate in SIS and still be eligible to later participate in Teach for America?TFA is an AmeriCorps program with a 2 year commitment. A student who hopes to participate in TFA after graduation would be eligible to earn 2 full educational awards during their 2 year commitment. A person can earn up to 4 educational awards in a lifetime (not to exceed the equivalent of 2 full awards).
So, you could complete one or two terms of Students in Service and still be eligible to participate in TFA but would only be eligible for partial educational awards during your term of service because you will have already earned a portion of your award allotment with SIS.
Recognize that TFA participants earn a regular salary ($27,000 - $47,000/year) plus are eligible to earn a full educational award from AmeriCorps ($5,350/term). You may not feel it is important to earn the ed award with TFA because of the salary. Also, even though your goal may be to participate in TFA, your acceptance to teach is not guaranteed because it is a competitive process.
To learn more about the financial benefits of TFA, please go to:
- For each new site agreement, do I need to fill out the member development plan?We highly recommend you fill out the membership development plan for each site agreement for three reasons:
1.To let your site supervisor at all your sites know of your member development goals.
2.To have the flexibility to have any site supervisor sign off on your member development hours.
3.To reinforce your membership goals as you serve your community.
However, if one site supervisor agrees to sign off on all your membership development hours throughout your term of service then you do not need to fill out the membership development plan on subsequent site agreements.
- Where do I send my paperwork?Please, deliver all paperwork to the SIS Coordinator on your campus.
- Can documents be faxed?Please do not fax paperwork to the SIS Coordinator on your campus. If your paperwork will be late, you may notify the SIS Coordinator on your campus to which you submit paperwork, but you will need to send the original document with original signatures as soon as possible.
- Should I make copies of my paperwork?Yes! Yes! Copy ALL the paperwork you complete before passing it into the SIS Coordinator on your campus. Sometimes, things really do get "lost in the mail", so your ability to supply a copy of your documents may be critical. Not only will you have a record of the paperwork you have completed for record keeping, but you can continuously reference that information throughout your Term of Service. Time Logs are especially important to copy as those copies may be the only proof or record of your activities.
- How can I check if my file is up to date or if I am missing any paperwork?The best way to check is to call the SIS Coordinator on your campus. It is your responsibility to make sure your paperwork is completed in a timely manner. Remember to keep copies of your documents and notify us if you have new contact information, etc.
- I do not have a copy of my birth certificate - how do I get one?You can call your state's Health Department, the office for birth/death certificates or vital records. Another option: call the company VITALCHECK at 1-800-255-2414. This is a faster but more expensive method.
- Why am I strongly encouraged to write a Great Story and expected to complete an evaluation?The Great Stories you write provide written document of the impact you had on your community. We may use excerpts of your great story in a progress report, grant proposal or for marketing purposes. The evaluations provide a reflection tool for you and for us. Hopefully the questions on the evaluations will help you think about your Term of Service and what you gained while providing important program improvement suggestions to the Students in Service program.
Submit your Great Stories here, or on our Facebook page!
- What is a Criminal Record Check? What if I have already had one?
All AmeriCorps members are required to have a National Sex Offender Public Registry check, a state repository check in their state of residence and state where they are serving, and if the member is having recurring access to a vulnerable population then the member would also need an FBI fingerprint check, completed on them. The member must complete the Criminal Record Check Authorization Form before a criminal record check can be ordered.
- One the time log, there is a section labeled "number of volunteers recruited." What does this mean?A major goal of our program is to encourage YOU and your fellow SIS Members to recruit college students to volunteer in their community and join the growing national student network of volunteers. We encourage you to keep track of how many friends, family members, or community members you recruit on your time logs so you can add up the number recruited and report this number on your member evaluation to be passed in with your exit paperwork.
- What is a site supervisor?A site supervisor is someone at your service site who can verify your hours and support you through your direct service. Your site supervisor is the person who signed your Site Agreement. The site supervisor is the ONLY person who can sign your Time Logs.
- What do I do if my site supervisor has changed?You must fill out a new Site Agreement. Your service site may not have changed, but we must have your new supervisor's contact information and signature.
- What if my site supervisor is gone for two weeks and I cannot get my time log signed!?Do not turn it in to us without a supervisor's signature! We'll just send it right back to you! Have your backup supervisor (as indicated on your site agreement) sign your time log.
Qualified Title IV Institutions
- What are qualified institutions of higher education (Title IV schools)?You can use your education award to pay for current educational expenses at qualified institutions of higher education. For purposes of the education award, a "qualified" institution is one that participates in the U.S. Department of Education's student assistance program – i.e., it has an agreement with the Department of Education whereby students at that school are eligible to receive at least some type of federal financial assistance to attend the school. These are sometimes called Title IV schools. You do not have to apply for financial aid to use your education award, but the school must be one that participates in the federal student aid program.
A school may be accredited and even offer graduate degrees. However, unless it is a Title IV school the education award cannot be used there. Most postsecondary educational institutions in the U.S. are Title IV. Thousands of technical and trade schools are Title IV as well. Art schools, beauty schools, and truck driving schools may be Title IV.
- How can I find out if a school is qualified as a Title IV school?You can ask your financial aid office if the school is a Title IV institution. If it is Title IV, you can use the education award there. Another way to find out is to call the toll-free number at the Department of Education's Federal Student Aid Information Center between 9am-8pm (EST), Monday through Friday. The number is 1-800-433-3243. You can also search the Department's website at: http://www.fafsa.ed.gov/FOTWWebApp/FSLookupServlet
If a foreign school participates in the Department of Education's Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) Program, the AmeriCorps education award can be used there. You can use the number above to find out if a particular international school participates in the FFEL program. Another way to approach attending schools overseas is to obtain a qualified student loan to attend the foreign school and use the education award to repay the loan.