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Colorado

Hispanic leaders in Colorado, like so many in the United States, are committed to addressing challenges and improving opportunities for their community. They want to work with the Federal government to understand policies, access information, leverage resources, and build collaboration that will help provide solutions to pressing concerns. In Denver, I saw this commitment first hand.

When our armed forces return from combat, the impact it has on their lives is lasting, though not always evident. For many, they are returning with invisible wounds, that left untreated, can turn into scars.

As America's heroes return from deployments abroad and transition back into civilian life, many are facing challenges in finding employment. With the unemployment rate among recently returned veterans hovering around 12 percent, these men and women who volunteered to courageously serve our country should not have to return home with bleak opportunities in sight.

My name is Rebecca Lange and I am a proud alumna of the second class of AmeriCorps NCCC. I served
at the Central Region campus in Denver, CO, from 1995-1996, a wide-eyed high school graduate
looking for an adventure, a unique way to serve, and beyond excited to begin what I hoped to be an
awesome life.

In October 2010, I began my first year of service as an AmeriCorps member with the Community Building Partnerships for Youth in Transition program in Denver, Colorado. I was placed with the YMCA of Metropolitan Denver in the Community Programs Branch at Bruce Randolph School and tasked with mentoring ten youth over the course of the year – a job I found both intimidating and exciting.

Stephen Packard, 24, could have taken his degree in Economics from the University of Connecticut and found a comfortable desk job. Instead, he opted for a more adventurous path when he joined AmeriCorps NCCC. Never did he imagine he'd one day be working on the front lines of Colorado's biggest wildfire in history, sleeping just feet from the flames.

Recent wildfires have threatened communities across Colorado and the Southwest and national service has been working day and night to help put out the flames and support survivors.

Millions of Americans will be making the journey to their respective hometowns this weekend to celebrate the holidays with friends and family. Today and tomorrow, a 26-member AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps (NCCC) team will leave Denver, CO, for the East Coast to spend their holidays helping families recover from Hurricane Sandy.

More than a quarter of Colorado's third-graders are not reading at grade level, a concerning statistic as early childhood literacy is one of the most important predictors of school success and high school graduation. Stakeholders across diverse sectors including federal, state, and local governments, educators, nonprofits, business leaders, and foundations have teamed up to improving childhood literacy as a top priority for the state.

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