The New York Times has reported that AmeriCorps is among the list of organizations and programs on the chopping block under the new Republican administration; what follows is why we cannot allow its funding to be cut.
“When I grow up, I want to be a public servant.”
— Me, age 26
If you asked me what I wanted to do with my life and career, up until recently, I wouldn’t have had a direct answer for you.
From the time that I was a child, dreaming of becoming a famous author, until today, I’ve ping-ponged across many possible career paths and fields, from journalist, to professor, to entrepreneur, to lawyer, to politician, to professional nomad. (Let me dream, dammit!)
So, how did I get to this point, where I now aim to dedicate my life to public service?
One main reason: AmeriCorps.
To celebrate AmeriCorps Week, and do my part to ensure this program stays intact, what follows one little piece of my own #StoryofService, and why we must ensure that AmeriCorps opportunities continue on into the future.
How I Found National Service
Rewind to winter 2012.
As it does for most students nearing the end of their college days, the looming drumbeat of the “real world” sounded in the backdrop.
While some of my peers graduated with specific plans for their post-graduate career, I could only see a vague notion that I wanted to do something with my life that helped others.
I wanted my future work to have meaning and purpose beyond bringing home a pay check every week.
The only problem? I had no idea how to make that happen.
At some point amidst the fog, I stumbled across AmeriCorps: a national service program aimed at young adults wanting to give back to their country and community. Hmm….
So, when senior year rolled around and everyone else started the cutthroat job search, I created an application and sent it out to AmeriCorps programs across the country, and happily, was accepted.
From there, my deep dive into the world of national service, and subsequently, my own turning point for my professional goals occurred.
As a natural planner who likes to have everything figured out, organized, and prepared for ahead of time, the unknown is terrifying.
Yet, I entered AmeriCorps, ready to give of myself and experience what was to come, whatever that would be.
(As it turned out, that was the best part.)
During my AmeriCorps I spent one year in the sweltering heat of south Florida, teaching English to adult learners at a rural education center, and another in blustery Boston as a vocational English instructor in companies around the city.
Along the way, my cohorts started and completed community projects, from educational programming for children, to participating in the MLK National Day of Service, to spending countless extra hours learning from our communities and crafting new ways to solve their persistent problems.
Together, we turned good intentions into tangible action.
Both AmeriCorps programs I completed brought together diverse individuals from around the country to work together to address issues facing the public.
Different backgrounds, opinions, and mindsets met to tackle a common goal: get things done.
Make the world we all share better.
Do you see where I am headed with this?
For information about what you can do to support AmeriCorps, check out VoicesForService.org.
We Need AmeriCorps
AmeriCorps is the exact kind of program that the United States needs right now, perhaps more than ever before.
In a climate that has us convinced that the only thing we have in common is how different we are, AmeriCorps dares to demonstrate the opposite.
People come through AmeriCorps and national service for vastly different reasons, but its purpose unifies its participants.
We can all argue for hours about how to fix the problems we face as a country and as a planet.
Or, we can roll up our sleeves and make things happen.
Politicians in Washington have framed this proposal as a measure to cut down on wasteful government spending.
Yet, I question how we can call a program that has mobilized more than 1 million people who have completed over 1.3 billion hours of service to the public good, a waste.
The Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS), which oversees AmeriCorps and other similar programs, aims to “[improve] lives, [strengthen] communities, and [foster] civic engagement through service and volunteering.”
Its defunding would mark a devastating negative impact on not only those who participate in the program, but the communities that have been enriched and improved by it as well.
Removal of a program that supports more civic engagement would both harm our country, and weaken our democracy.
I am one of thousands upon thousands of others, who have found their path to public service through their AmeriCorps experience.
We represent a proven pipeline to direct those of all backgrounds into public service and other careers with the ultimate goal of creating a more fair, equitable, and peaceful world.
We need to engage with our communities with the mindset of making positive change happen, instead of bemoaning the supposedly unsolvable problems at hand.
We need experiences that show us our commonalities and shared humanity, rather than underscore our differing ideologies.
We need to inspire more public servants to action: more intelligent, passionate, trustworthy individuals willing to dedicate their lives to the betterment of the world around them, instead of politicians with loud voices and hastily scrawled tweets.
The message bears repeating:
We need AmeriCorps now more than ever before.
Let’s make sure we keep it.
For more information about what you can do to support AmeriCorps, check out VoicesForService.org.
If you liked this, you might also like: Thinking About a Year of National Service? 6 Things AmeriCorps is and is NOT
Let's change the world.
Who wrote this?
Gina Edwards, Impact Explorer founder and lover of all pun jokes, making a positive change in the world, Stephen Colbert, Jif Peanut Butter, and staying inside on rainy days. Order may vary.