Program Overview

Rural Action’s Leadership Development and Service program is all about mobilizing energetic and passionate people to make a difference in our communities while empowering local people to grow as community leaders, building the foundation for a lifetime of service and collective impact.

In Appalachian Ohio, being a leader means knowing our communities, respecting our resources, celebrating our history, restoring, conserving, and leveraging our assets, all while nurturing the skills needed to be innovators and changemakers. At Rural Action, we provide career-building opportunities through AmeriCorps State/National, AmeriCorps VISTA, Youth Climate Action Team (YCAT), and other fellowship or internship assignments lasting from one to three years.

We also provide shorter experiences for those looking to make a difference over a summer, or on a more limited basis.

Our leadership programs mobilize changemakers in the communities we work in. They provide hands-on experiential learning to future leaders in partnership with local officials, businesses, academia, and other nonprofits. Opportunities provided through Rural Action are linked to career pathways into promising sectors in our region such as watershed restoration and protection, sustainable agriculture and forestry, community organizing and development, zero waste, and environmental education.

Rural Action has been cultivating the next generation of leaders for more than 25 years. Learn more about our history with national service programs by reading our story.


Projects / Areas of Work

AmeriCorps State/National: Appalachian Ohio Restore Corps

The Appalachian Ohio Restore Corps (AORC) mobilizes 31 AmeriCorps members throughout rural Appalachian Ohio to perform direct service in communities of need. During a yearlong term of service, members gain training and experience on many types of exciting community and economic development projects, environmental restoration efforts, and education initiatives. AORC AmeriCorps members are deeply incorporated into existing programs at Rural Action or partner host sites. Projects through AORC include watershed restoration, zero waste, environmental education, local tourism, public lands access, sustainable forestry, sustainable agriculture, economic development, support of local entrepreneurs, asset and gap mapping, workforce development, and sustainable solutions for communities.

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AmeriCorps VISTA: Rural Renewal

Capacity to leverage our assets to solve our own issues is a challenge for small rural organizations, and finding your place in the world can also be a challenge. National Service is an incredible resource that puts heart and soul into our work and that of many partners. As a Rural Renewal AmeriCorps VISTA member, you will help Rural Action build needed capacity to reach more people and get more done in the communities we work in. Our Rural Renewal VISTA program currently places 5 members in year-long terms within programs at Rural Action and Community partners. Since 1994, more than 400 full- and part-time VISTA members have served rural Appalachian Ohio communities through Rural Action to address community needs and poverty. Projects have spanned healthcare, arts and heritage, low-income housing repair, community revitalization, and other community organizing and community development activities. These VISTAs helped form the foundation of the work we do today; many of Rural Action’s current programs began as member committees working with VISTA volunteers. Members served a total of 712,228.85 hours over the 15-year course of the program. The current Rural Action VISTA project has been operating since 2019 and aims to build on the successes of past programming to help small communities do big things.

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AmeriCorps VISTA Summer Associates

Summer VISTA Associates serve for 10 weeks in communities of need, starting in June. Summer VISTAs, unlike full-time VISTAs, can do direct service. Here at Rural Action, our Summer VISTAs serve in the Sustainable Agriculture program, keeping local produce moving, getting food to people who need it, and supporting local farmers. Our Summer VISTA positions are placements from a larger project operated by the Ohio CDC Association. Each spring, you can search “Rural Action” on the my.americorps.gov portal to find open Summer VISTA positions and apply!

my.americorps.gov

Employers of National Service

AmeriCorps members graduate from their term of service with transferrable, hands-on skills in restoration, and community development. More than 600 employers are now a part of the Employers of National Service program, which recognizes the valuable skills gained by more than 1 million Americans who have participated in AmeriCorps since 1994, as well as the 230,000 who have participated in the Peace Corps since 1961. Learn how you as an employer can benefit from AmeriCorps alums and their expertise by emailing Meredith Hamsher at meredithh@ruralaction.org.


Volunteer and Internship Opportunities

Rural Action offers many ways to volunteer and takes an active role in creating thriving communities and healthy environments in Appalachian Ohio.

Whether you want to work on restoration projects in the field, work with our youth, help out around the office, or offer your knowledge and expertise, Rural Action has a place for you to help. Ongoing, short-term, or special event opportunities are generally available. Rural Action also provides internship opportunities for high school and college students. Contact with your interest and availability or for more information on ways you can get involved.


Growing Local Leaders

Our greatest asset is the people who live and work in our region. Whether it’s working in schools, with kids outside of the class, with adults, with senior members of the community, or for the planet that sustains us, we believe investing in members of our community is the greatest hope we have for building thriving communities and healthy environments in rural Appalachian Ohio. For nearly 30 years, Rural Action has provided a pipeline for people who were interested in making a difference in their community through engagement, training, and leadership development. Learn more about how we are growing local leaders through our national service programs — AmeriCorps AORC and AmeriCorps VISTA, the Youth Climate Action Teams, internships, volunteer engagement in local communities, and more by clicking here.


AmeriCorps Alums

If you have served as an AmeriCorps State/National or AmeriCorps VISTA member through Rural Action or with a community partner, we would love to have you stay engaged with our AmeriCorps Alums community! Email shannon@ruralaction.org to join our Facebook group or go to https://www.americorpsalums.org to find a local AmeriCorps Alums chapter.

Meet our Members

Are you curious about our current National Service members and what’s it’s like to serve as an AmeriCorps AORC or AmeriCorps VISTA member? Click here to learn a little bit about AmeriCorps members who have served at Rural Action.


Leadership


Our Partners

Licking County Soil & Water
Little Cities of Black Diamonds
The Wilds
AmeriCorps
ServeOhio
Camp Oty’Okwa
Wayne National Forest
Hocking Hills Inspire Shelter
Buckeye Hills Regional Council
Buckeye Trail
The Dawes Arboretum
United Plant Savers
Raccoon Creek Partnership
Ohio’s Hill Country
Crane Hollow Preserve

Our Story

Rural Action’s journey with National Service began with a 25-year AmeriCorps VISTA program launched in 1994 through the Corporation for National and Community Service. In 2009, Rural Action transitioned to an AmeriCorps State/National program as the Rural Action Watersheds AmeriCorps program, focusing on watershed restoration in Appalachia Ohio. Since then, the program (now Appalachian Ohio Restore Corps) has grown from 8 to 31 AmeriCorps members in more than 20 Appalachian Ohio counties.

The interventions AORC employs to work toward regional community development have also grown to include watershed restoration and conservation, environmental education, waste reduction, and recycling, sustainable forestry and agriculture, access to public lands and recreation opportunities, and economic development through small business support and local heritage and resource-based tourism.

AORC members sample and monitor streams impacted by acid mine drainage, pollution, and nutrient loading. They lead lessons in schools, host summer camps, and organize community events to share environmental knowledge and eco-stories. Members provide education to property owners and the public about sustainable and profitable land use and improve public lands so more people can access and appreciate their local natural resources. Members also identify local assets and implement plans for community growth based on those assets, as exemplified through heritage tourism efforts in communities like Shawnee, McConnelsville, and Somerset. The Rural Renewal AmeriCorps VISTA positions at Rural Action and partner sites help to support this same asset-responsive work, building the foundations that mean area nonprofits and agencies can do more for the communities they serve.

Appalachian Ohio has a rich history of grassroots organizing and small nonprofits developed to address community needs unique to our region. AmeriCorps is helping Rural Action to leverage solid, intentional partnerships to build lasting collective impact in the region. With AORC and AmeriCorps VISTA host sites and supporters, Appalachian Ohio communities benefit from having better schools, access to healthy food, a cleaner environment, and increased citizen engagement.