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by
Rebecca L.

By Joseph Clay, Former U.S. Marine Serves Tulsa Youth in AmeriCorps

On Veterans Day 2015, CNCS CEO Wendy Spencer joined Tulsa Mayor Dewey Bartlett in honoring veterans serving in AmeriCorps and Senior Corps at a Veterans Corps ceremony in Tulsa, Oklahoma.  One of the veterans she met that day was Joseph Clay, a former Marine Corps Sergeant now serving in AmeriCorps through Teach For America.  This is Joseph’s story.

My name is Joseph Clay, and I was, and
always will be, a Sergeant in the United States Marine Corps. I served my
country in war time, running combat operations as an Infantry Marine in Iraq. My
time in the Marine Corps was one of the most influential times in my life. It
molded me into a warrior and into a man of conviction. I wear that pride on my
sleeve as I continue to serve as a teacher in one of the highest needs areas in
the country – Tulsa, Oklahoma. I’m grateful for the opportunity to continue my
service in the classroom where my experience can impact the lives of children
who deserve a quality education.My life has been a test of intestinal
fortitude and sacrifice. My story is unique to me, yet I see aspects of my
experience and identity shared with so many of my students. I grew up living in
poverty and now I serve a student population living in under-resourced
communities where violence is an everyday norm. I lost my father to a motorcycle
accident as a young child. Many of my students have only one parent at home. Like
my students, I tried to endure the challenges of poverty, but dreamed of one
day changing my reality. These shared experiences are why the work I do is so
important to who I am, and why I went into a life of service that started in
the Marine Corps and has led me to Teach For America and AmeriCorps.In the Marine Corps I served my nation
with honor. I also served alongside some of the greatest men I have ever known.
I believed in the spirit of America, and because of that belief I swore to a
life of service to defend my country against all enemies, foreign and domestic.
It was with that purpose in mind that I fought in the Iraq war.  Sixteen of my brothers never made it home. I
carry their memory with me every day in the classroom as I fight today to end
educational inequity.June 16, 2006, was the day that changed
who I was as a person and ensured that the sacrifice of others would live on in
my heart. I lost two of my best friends that day to an explosion. My vehicle
was one of three that struck Improvised Explosive Devices, or IEDs, in an
ambush outside of Ramadi, and what followed is forever ingrained in my mind. Many
in our convoy were killed and all were injured. It is that day that pushes me
to bring the message of freedom and equality with me in everything that I do.
Those men believed in our nation, and that day my mission to deliver their
message to others began. I sustained an injury, but I walked away. That injury is
a reminder every day of my life that I was one of the lucky ones. It is with that
mentality that I approach my service to this country, from the classroom and
beyond.Few things have the power to unleash a
child’s potential and open the doors of opportunity like an excellent
education. As a teacher, I can help my students break free from the cycle of
poverty and set their sights on any future they envision for themselves.
Joining Teach For America has allowed me to carry on my friends’ legacy as I impact
the lives of Tulsa’s youth every day as a math teacher at East Central High
School. I am proud to be a 2014 corps member and am one of a growing number of
veterans serving as AmeriCorps members in Teach For America. I encourage my
fellow veterans to join the fight to give our nation’s youth the education they
deserve. As I’ve seen among my fellow Marines, military veterans have a unique
experience and leadership ability that can add real value to the classroom. I get the chance to live the memory of
my fallen brothers in the classroom. Their sacrifice continues to motivate me
to make a difference and their love of our country and its opportunities push
me to be a better person in everything that I do. I am a proud member of
AmeriCorps; I served America, now I teach for America. Semper Fidelis!Joseph
Clay, former Sergeant in the United States Marine Corps, serves as an AmeriCorps
members with Teach For America in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Keywords: Teach For America, AmeriCorps, VetCorps
Continuing a tradition he started at his first inauguration in 2009, President Barack Obama is calling on Americans all across the country to honor the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and participate in the National Day of Service on Saturday, Jan. 19, 2013.
In 1960, when she was just 6 years old, civil rights leader Ruby Bridges was one of four children to integrate the public school system in New Orleans. Every day, she crossed a screaming mob to enter her classroom.
President Obama encourages everyone to join him and the First Family for the National Day of Service on Saturday, Jan. 19 in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. People all across the nation will be participating in service projects – watch the video and learn how you can participate in the event.
Americans from all 50 states will join thousands of organizations and commit to service this weekend as the Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service coincides with the 57th Presidential Inaugural and National Day of Service.
First Lady Michelle Obama lends her voice to encourage Americans to serve as part of the National Day of Service on Saturday, Jan. 19. Read on to watch the video, discover more about the First Family’s commitment to community service, and learn how you can join the effort.
The Service News Digest is a regular feature on the Serve.gov blog. In this series, we showcase articles that feature national service and Corporation for National and Community Service programs. Take a look at some of the great stories that had people talking recently.
In a sermon delivered nearly 55 years ago, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. described what he called the "Drum Major Instinct” to the congregation in Atlanta’s Ebenezer Baptist Church. The words he spoke that day were the inspiration for a national service award that recognizes leaders who give their time serving others but seldom seek the spotlight.
One of the greatest things about the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. holiday is that when we pause to celebrate the life and accomplishments of the civil rights leader, we are also inspired to answer what he called life’s most persistent question: “What are you doing for others?” We can respond with action via MLK Day projects and National Day of Service activities surrounding the upcoming inauguration.
We continue to track news coverage of the role national service participants have played in the Hurricane Sandy relief and recovery effort for the last few months. This week, our collection of stories includes one about two AmeriCorps members who spent their holiday away from home, helping people in New York and New Jersey recover from the storm.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. changed the course of history and inspired us to build what he called "the beloved community." The King Legacy of Service video tells the story of how Dr. King's birthday evolved into a national day of service.
This week, nearly 100 AmeriCorps members boarded planes from Sacramento, CA, to New Jersey and New York where they will help residents affected by Hurricane Sandy rebuild homes, remove debris, and manage volunteers. Southwest Airlines’ decision to donate travel to these young leaders made this deployment possible.
At age 17, Congressman John Lewis was so inspired by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. that he wrote a letter to King asking to meet him. Dr. King wrote back and sent Lewis a round-trip Greyhound bus ticket to meet with him.
Last month, we told you that Americans volunteered 7.9 billion hours in the Volunteering and Civic Life in America report and last week, we asked you to join us in a National Day of Service around the Presidential Inauguration and the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service. We know that January is a time filled with resolve to be better and do better. What better way to fulfill those resolutions than with volunteering?
The Service News Digest is a regular feature on the Serve.gov blog. In this series, we showcase news highlights that feature national service, and Corporation for National and Community Service programs. Take a look at some of the great stories that had people talking recently.
Each new year draws millions to make resolutions designed to change their lives. And while the focus on self-improvement is fine, the arrival of National Mentoring Month gives us an opportunity to recognize men and women who channel their energy to helping and inspiring young people toward a brighter future.
Last month, Corporation for National and Community Service staff visited several sites in New York and New Jersey where national service members were helping with the Hurricane Sandy recovery effort. Today, we'd like to share two of the videos from that trip.
As an AmeriCorps VISTA at Habitat for Humanity International, I spend most of my days planning for events, attending meetings for upcoming projects, and supporting the wonderful and exciting things my fellow Habitaters (coworkers) are doing. Recently, I had an opportunity to see the impact Habitat makes firsthand as we led a project to help homeowners affected by Hurricane Sandy.
We’ve been tracking news coverage of the role our national service participants have played in the Hurricane Sandy relief and recovery effort for the last few months. Here are some of the latest stories, including two personal reflections by AmeriCorps members.
Growing up, I was fortunate enough to live a different experience than most. My parents were treasure hunters and I spent a majority of my childhood on their boat traveling in the Bahamas. Looking back, I almost feel as if I took those years a bit for granted; I never would have thought that the very boat I grew up on would be lifted and dropped in someone else’s yard.
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.
This is the final stretch for holiday shoppers, and you know who you are if you belong to the procrastinators club. But you can still give the gift of service and help to others, even while the rush to the malls reaches a fever pitch.
When AmeriCorps NCCC member Melissa Ettman was assigned to lead a Sacramento, CA-based team to help with the Hurricane Sandy cleanup in New York and New Jersey, she was familiar with many of the areas affected by the storm. In fact, her 87-year-old grandmother on Long Island was affected by the hurricane and had to live without electricity for a week.
“Where do you find the time?” is a question that could be posed to many parents, but the 2012 Volunteering and Civic Life in America (VCLA) report shows that many in this group are carving space in their busy schedules to help others in their communities. Allison Moore, a military spouse and mother of three young children in Missouri, is a prime example.
The new Volunteering and Civic Life in America report gives researchers at the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) a chance to examine some of the trends in these two important areas of life in these United States. This data from all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and 51 cities provides a snapshot of how Americans are coming together to improve our communities and who is leading the way.
As Hurricane Sandy efforts transition from emergency response to long-term recovery, AmeriCorps members are providing vital leadership in communities up and down the East Coast.
Working together to strengthen our communities is at the core of our national values. New research indicates that this commitment to service burns brighter than ever.
The Hurricane Sandy recovery continues with more than 1,660 national service participants deployed in response to the storm and 715 currently serving on the ground and working with the storm’s victims. At this time 407 members of FEMA Corps, an AmeriCorps NCCC unit, have deployed or are being re-routed to New York and New Jersey to support FEMA Emergency Response operations in those areas.
Our friends weigh in often on our Facebook page with comments, opinions, and all kinds of interesting observations.
As military deployments became more common for National Guard and Reserve troops, the emotional strain hits children left behind especially hard. Operation: Military Kids (OMK) supports military youth age 5-18 with outreach programs to help them cope with the stresses of being away from their parents serving far from home.
Even though there are plenty of distractions around the holiday season, let’s not forget the victims of Hurricane Sandy who are still reassembling their lives in the storm’s aftermath. The Corporation for National and Community Service joins other federal and national agencies in the recovery effort with a commitment that’s used by our Disaster Services Unit: “You can count on us to respond fast and stay last.”

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