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By Jack Wingate, Teach for AmericaAmeriCorps gave Teach For America alum Jack Wingate (Metro Atlanta ‘13) the opportunity to contribute toward strengthening his community. Now he asks that you join him in calling on Congress to protect funding for AmeriCorps and CNCS.I became a teacher after spending nearly 30 years in the business world. I’d come to the realization that the career ladder I was climbing leaned against the wrong wall, and I began to look for opportunities to serve. I wanted to make a difference, to change the lives of students and partner with their families to strengthen our community. Three years ago, I joined Teach For America, an AmeriCorps program, and doing so has allowed me to devote the rest of my life to the incredible people I’ve had the pleasure to work with here in Atlanta.I teach special education at King Middle School in the Atlanta Public Schools district. Through this work, I’ve been able to make academic gains with my students. I’ve developed wonderful relationships with them and the rest of the community here at King, and I’ve been able to work towards something greater than myself. This career in service wouldn’t have been possible without AmeriCorps, and my experience isn’t unique.This year, 80,000 AmeriCorps members are mobilizing more than 4 million volunteers to help the most vulnerable citizens of this country. Their contributions are invaluable, yet Congress is considering significant cuts in funding to AmeriCorps and its parent agency, the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS).  These cuts would strip communities of the diverse talent and supports that they’ve benefited from and relied on for key services, and if the current House bill passes, then as many as half of all AmeriCorps positions could be eliminated.When I decided to switch gears and build a career in service, the financial support I received from AmeriCorps as a Teach For America corps member helped make that transition affordable. Going from business to teaching involved a change in income, and I was also required to earn a master’s degree in education. As an AmeriCorps participant, I received a stipend that I used toward that degree, and I also had the option of deferring my student loans for two years while CNCS paid the interest accrued. I’m eternally grateful for AmeriCorps’ role in helping me pay for tuition, books, and activity fees while I simultaneously worked with my students. That support makes it possible for everyone to serve, including those who might otherwise struggle with the financial implications of changing careers midway through life.During my first year as a corps member, nine out of my 11 literacy students passed their standardized reading test, and one student—who entered my classroom grade levels behind—was recommended for promotion to high school by the end of the year. Service truly has a lasting impact on communities, and I see it in the relationships I’ve built with parents, in the ongoing contact I have with students who have graduated, and in the daily conversations I have with my current students.At my school, we wouldn’t be able to make the same progress without AmeriCorps. In addition to the support the professional program has given me, we’ve also had several AmeriCorps volunteers tutor our students and assist with a variety of different educational programs. AmeriCorps has given me and so many others the chance to contribute to stronger communities, so please, join me in calling on members of Congress to protect funding for AmeriCorps and CNCS so we can build a stronger America through service.To read the whole article please visit the link here

Keywords: AmeriCorps, National Service, Teach For America
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