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AmeriCorps Alums: Leading by Example

by Greg Tucker

For many AmeriCorps members, finishing a term of service is not an ending, but the beginning of a life dedicated to public service and improving the lives of others.

More than 800,000 people – a number close to the population of San Francisco – have served in AmeriCorps since its inception in 1994. You don't have to look far to find achievements that highlight how AmeriCorps alumni have leveraged national service experience to become leaders in fields such as education, science, community development, and the private sector.

AmeriCorps Alums honored as White House Champions of Change. Ben Duda, Executive Director, AmeriCorps Alums; Marissa Mikoy, Director of Operations and Evaluation, the Teaching Trust; Christine Riley, Director of Corporate Social Responsibility, Dunkin Donuts; Noelle Ito, Director of Community Philanthropy, Asian Americans/Pacific Islanders in Philanthropy; Shonak Patel, Co-founder, Gather Education; Morgan Tracey, attorney and member, United States National Skeleton Program; Nicole Trimble; Director of Corporate Responsibility, Coinstar,Inc; Mayor John Fetterman, Braddock, Penn; Dr. Sharon Wagner, Assistant Professor, School of Economics, University of Maine; Delores Morton, President, Points of Light’s Programs Division; Rhonda Ulmer, Founding Director, University for Parents; Tim Morehouse, U.S. Olympic Team medalist; Seth Marbin, Program Manager, Google’s Social Responsibility Team. (CNCS Photo by Scott Julian)

This is not surprising – the leadership, problem solving, and work experience our members obtain during their national service terms translate well to the “real world.” And a tight job market makes this experience even more valuable, especially in times when these opportunities are harder to come by.

AmeriCorps expands opportunity for its members through the Segal AmeriCorps Education Award, which has helped hundreds of thousands of program alumni cover college costs or pay back student loans. America reaps the benefits of this investment through the service AmeriCorps members provide before and after their terms, including many who increase their civic involvement and step forward to address community challenges.

AmeriCorps is often a springboard for greater things, as seen in the a small group of 150 AmeriCorps Alums that convened at the White House last year, with 12 tapped for recognition as Champions of Change. Among the group were young leaders in politics, philanthropy, corporate giving, education reform, technology, and even an Olympic medalist.

Plus, 2012 saw the election of New Mexico's Martin Heinrich to the U.S. Senate, becoming the first AmeriCorps alum to join VISTA alum Sen. Jay Rockefeller in the chamber. And in February, AmeriCorps alum Patience Lehrman received the Presidential Citizens Medal, the nation's second-highest civilian honor, from President Obama in a White House ceremony.

AmeriCorps alumni are making their mark, using their service to clear a pathway to opportunity and career advancement. They have earned a well-deserved tip of the hat for their contributions to the nation, both before and after their terms or service.

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