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The Silicon Valley of Service – CNCS Goes to Boston

by Malcolm Coles

Even Jack Bauer would have had a hard time cramming so much activity into a 24-hour period.

Once Corporation for National and Community Service CEO Patrick A. Corvington touched down in Boston early on Wednesday, March 24, until it was time to head back to DC the next day, the action never stopped. From his first meeting with the Emily Shea, City of Boston’s Commissioner on Affairs of the Elderly (an RSVP and Senior Companion sponsor) to a visit to the Blackstone Elementary School, CNCS partners in Greater Boston did their best to solidify its reputation as “The Silicon Valley” of national service.

Massachusetts is the birthplace of the modern national service movement; innovative programs such as Citizen Schools, City Year, JumpStart, New Profit, Tech Mission, and YouthBuild either started there or call the state home.

The whirlwind visit include the 20th Anniversary Celebration of the Massachusetts Service Alliance, featuring remarks by Governor Deval Patrick, Vicki Reggie Kennedy, and Corvington. Awards were presented to Eli Segal’s widow Phyllis Segal, Vice President of Civic Ventures; Maureen Curley, President of National Campus Compact; Fidelity Investments; and the Heller School.

“One of the things that created the environment here is this clear commitment by people in the Commonwealth to serve,” said Corvington at the MSA event. “Great leaders – Senator Kennedy, Governor Patrick. A set of universities that have imbued service in everything they do. If you think about the numbers -- 1.4 million citizens in Massachusetts volunteered 159 million hours of service last year, 159 million hours. You ought to be proud.”

On Wednesday, Corvington met with 40 Eli J. Segal Fellows enrolled at Brandeis University’s Heller School for Social Policy & Management. The meeting included a Segal Citizenship Lecture by While House Domestic Policy Council Director Melody Barnes. “The government can’t solve all of the problems we have, nor should it,” said Barnes. “For all the work we do in Washington, it is the active, engaged citizenship that is going to leverage that and work towards our dreams.”

While the star-studded, A-list lineup was breathtaking both in its scope and celebrity, one of the visit’s highlights was the hour spent at Blackstone Elementary School in Boston’s South End. In this session, Corvington heard first-hand accounts from AmeriCorps members assigned to City Year and Generations Incorporated on how their efforts were raising the reading levels for students in this turnaround school.

This amazing team of AmeriCorps members, ranging in age from early 20s to 70+, recounted with great pride and enthusiasm their literacy work and its well-documented results, which have moved the needle for students in such critical areas as words-per-minute and reading at grade level. Hearing their inspiring stories, we were once again reminded of the true purpose and power of service and who the real change-makers are in our communities.

Malcolm Coles is the Atlantic Cluster Area Manager for the Corporation for National and Community Service.

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