By Jack Wingate, Teach for America
For too many years we have addressed the equation of “fit body and fit minds” as requiring two separate interventions. For the mind, we’ve looked toward mentoring. For the body, we’ve turned to physical activity and health education. But our AmeriCorps investment proves that a national service member can be the catalyst to fit bodies and fit minds. Our formula has been to train our AmeriCorps members on how to use the power of coaching to build relationships with at-risk youth that inspire their healthy futures.
Our nation is more health-conscious and health-aware than ever, but for many there are still obstacles – an untreated disease, obesity, or lack of healthy food -- that prevent them from living their lives to the fullest. That needs to change, and our AmeriCorps members are working to make that happen every day.
Lacking significant support from family, then-high school student Amanda Parris didn’t believe college was an option. But her enrollment in a dropout prevention program led to night classes at a local community college and awakened a desire to give back to others.
During your life’s journey, I am sure that you can remember times when your path was made clearer or your baggage lighter because of someone who helped along the way. These thoughts came to mind today as President Obama outlined his plan to expand opportunity for boys and young men of color through the My Brother’s Keeper initiative and a new federal task force on which I am honored to serve.
After her seventh-grade teacher explained the connection between service and the Peace Corps, a 12-year-old Laura Glaub promised to factor service into her own life. Years later, she pursued opportunities that would support her dream of becoming a social worker. A quick online search led her to Partners for After School Success, a multi-site AmeriCorps program that targets middle and high school students.
Iowa can add another “first-in-the-nation” jewel to its crown with today’s announcement by Governor Terry Branstad of the creation of the Governor’s Council on National Service in Iowa.
In the months leading up to her college graduation, Diana Martin sketched a mental blueprint for her future. Her past volunteer work as a summer camp assistant, tutor, and soccer coach all added up to one thing—educating children must be part of that future. And the AmeriCorps program, Diana decided, would help her reach that goal.
Whenever the talk begins about our nation making quality education a priority, it’s no surprise that some may be cynical. After all, we have too many children entering school unprepared, too many falling behind early, and too many dropping out before graduation. Why can’t we change this story? The truth is, we can – and we are.
AmeriCorps member Margaret Montague is used to having a steady stream of students come to see her for college advice in her office at T.C. Williams High School in Alexandria, VA, just outside the nation's capital.
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