BY RAY VAN COR
The Greenville Standard
AmeriCorps week is celebrated March 13-19 in which AmeriCorps recognizes the millions of Americans who have chosen to serve their country.
This year’s theme is “Together, we are AmeriCorps.” “AmeriCorps week and National Service Recognition Day were both celebrated this week instead of having a standalone day a few weeks later.” said, Instructional Support Team Director Kathy Tolin.
The first Tuesday in April was designated as National Service Recognition Day for nearly a decade, led by AmeriCorps, the National League of Cities, the National Association of Counties, and Cities of Service.
McKenzie High School is where AmeriCorps chose to celebrate this particular group of service champions.
McKenzie’s Mayor Lester Odom Jr. brought forth a proclamation that March 15 was National Service Recognition Day.
AmeriCorps, what is it and how did it get started? In 1990, the first President Bush signed the National and Community Service Act.
The act included literacy and conservation efforts, It also called for the creation of a nonprofit Points of Light foundation, named for Bush’s “thousand points of light” speech and designed to identify new opportunities for community service.
In the Bush program, volunteers received small grants in recognition of their service.
AmeriCorps was formally founded in 1993 under President Clinton’s Administration, who put many of the programs under one “umbrella” organization and created the Corporation for National and Community Service.
With the National and Community Service Trust Act, AmeriCorps began offering educational assistance in return for service.
In 1995, VISTA joined AmeriCorps programs. Many questioned Clinton’s service plan, the effectiveness and efficiency of the program administration referring to it as a “soft” program or one for the sake of photo opportunities rather than real change, however, the second President Bush expanded the program and raised the number of volunteers.
In 2009, President Obama’s recovery plan expanded funding for AmeriCorps.
This aspect of the plan is known as the Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act, in honor of Senator Ted Kennedy a longtime champion of community service.
Many might remember President Kennedy’s quote, “Ask not what your country can do for you but what you can do for your country.”
Through partnerships with schools, faith-based groups, nonprofits, and local agencies, national service members work within the communities they serve, using their training to make a tangible, lasting impact.
Responding to natural disasters, tackling the opioid epidemic, educating students for the 21st century workforce, and supporting veterans and military families, and strengthening their communities.
Volunteers support students in nearly 12,000 public, private, and charter schools across the country. AmeriCorps helps develop vital work skills, builds and rehabilitate affordable housing, provides financial literacy training, and provide assistance to nearly 500,000 veterans and military families by connecting them to education opportunities, jobs, and the benefits they have earned.
AmeriCorps provides independent living services to 365,000 elderly Americans.
More than a mouthful and definitely worth celebrating.