By Jack Wingate, Teach for America
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.
Can a simple mentoring relationship rescue a life in peril? In a world with few easy solutions, there are innumerable stories -- and a new survey -- that demonstrate this could be possible. Let's start with one of these stories.
“I am a guidance counselor and a teacher, den mother, referee, and confidant. I am a newspaper reporter, editor, and printer. I am a public relations man, chauffer, and pawn shop operator. I am also a scribe, medic, friend, buddy, and informer. I’m the low man on the totem pole, but the buck stops with me. I’m the middle man between Corpsman and staff, between staff and staff, and between Corpsmen and Corpsmen.”
I wrote that paragraph almost 50 years ago, along with William “Tex” Arnold and Ed Nungesser, after my assignment to the nation’s first Job Corps Center, Camp Catoctin, located in the piney woods just up the hill from the Presidential Retreat at Camp David, in a former Civilian Conservation Corps camp in rural western Maryland.
Today Americans are remembering the legacy of President John F. Kennedy on the 50th anniversary of his assassination. Many in the national service family were inspired by his life, and his legacy lives on through AmeriCorps VISTA, one of the anti-poverty programs he envisioned before his untimely death.
When President Obama announced the Task Force on Expanding National Service in July, he asked federal agencies to work together to create a pipeline for national service participants to apply the skills they learned in the federal sector. Last week, the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) announced new guidance from that will affect past, current, and future AmeriCorps members and other national service participants.
October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM), and the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) is committed to providing opportunities that change the lives of those who serve, as well as those being served. With this commitment, we can create avenues for people with disabilities to greater economic opportunity through the service experience in AmeriCorps and Senior Corps.
One year ago, Hurricane Sandy left a trail of destruction in its wake across six states, doing the most damage in heavily populated areas of New Jersey and New York. The recovery that followed – and even continues to this day -- required a massive response and thousands of national service members joined their fellow Americans to answer the call for help.
Is it possible to effectively harness youthful enthusiasm and idealism and turn it into it a renewable resource for good? We think so. Twenty years ago, President Clinton signed a bill that created AmeriCorps and gave our country a new outlet for national service that did just that.
A few years ago, a young teenager named Chris was living the street life in Austin, Texas, a high school dropout dealing drugs and facing bleak prospects for the future. While spending time at a juvenile detention center, two Senior Corps volunteers offered Chris love, support, and consistent finger-wagging, encouraging him to take his life in a new direction. Today, thanks to AmeriCorps, Chris has graduated from high school, gained valuable work skills, and found his passion in life -- becoming a wildland firefighter.
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