Posts Tagged ‘serve america act’
Two years ago, the Serve America Act was passed with much fanfare. It established a goal of expanding from 75,000 government-supported volunteers to 250,000, and aimed to increase education funding and establish a summer volunteer program for s
tudents, paying $500 (which would be applied to college costs) to high-school and middle-school student who participate. The world’s voluntary organisations looked on with envy.
What a difference a couple of years can make. With pressure to slash budgets,
I think this seems like a false economy for the US, and a real blow for the young people affected. After all, the Americorps version of “national service” is voluntary, not compulsory, and participants receive living expenses and modest college expenses (not a bad option in a time of record youth unemployment rates). It supports innovative projects like Teach for America, which fills hard-to-fill teaching positions with America’s top college graduates, City Year, which has been shown to dramatically reduce teenage drop-out rates in schools, and numerous other voluntary organisations, large and small. (For more, see ICP’s collection of 52 of the most innovative Americorps programmes.)
As Shirley Sagwa writes in the Huffington Post: “Volunteers aren’t free — somebody needs to recruit them and manage them — and charities often struggle for resources, especially during down economies. AmeriCorps members, by recruiting and supervising community volunteers, make it possible for millions of people to make a real difference. As a result, the charitable sector is stronger and volunteers more effective, thereby lessening the need for greater government spending.”
In what is becoming a signature domestic issue for the First Lady and the President, Michelle Obama kicked off the ‘United We Serve’ summer initiative, which runs from June 22nd to the National Day
of Service and Remembrance on September 11th 2009.
In a video message released on May 16, Michelle Obama called on all Americans to help in the nation’s recovery by volunteering in their communities this summer and beyond to help lay a new foundation for growth by engaging in sustained, meaningful community service.
The ‘United We Serve’ campaign launch formed part of the First
Lady’s keynote opening speech at the National Conference on Volunteering and Service. The conference, co-hosted by the Corporation for National and Community Service and the Points of Light Institute, brings together more than 4,000 volunteer and service leaders from across the nation and globe at a time of strong momentum for service and civic engagement.
In the US, momentum is building following President Barack Obama’s signing on April 21, 2009, of the Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act. The Serve America Act reauthorizes and expands national service programs administered by the Corporation for National and Community Service, a federal agency created in 1993.
Check out the conference programme and speeches.
s-what-should-we-learn” target=”_blank”>state of volunteering in the US, and to a smaller extent, even my post on the Generational Theory. President Obama signed the Serve America Act a couple of weeks ago and requested the youth of America to take part in volunteering huge numbers. He states the completely different circumstances of today’s younger generation, that grew up in ‘the aftermath of 9/11 and Katrina, wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and an economic recession without precedent’. The article questions whether Obama’s initiatives to increase volunteering among young people in America would be any more successful than those implemented by Presidents Bush or even Clinton, but then mentions how Obama himself has done a lot of volunteering in his lifetime and doesn’t utter empty words not backed by experience. The article also cites Robert Putnam’s Bowling Alone, a book that documented the decrease in civic engagement from the 1960′s onwards, something that I personally think about a lot. (Putnam speaks of the concept of social capital and how that contributes to re-vitalising or improving the condition of a society).
Indirectly touching on the Generational Theory, the article also mentions how people born during the difficulties that came about as a result of the Depression and the Second World War were more service-oriented than the baby boomers that followed, and therefore the young people of today who are struggling with the effects of terrorism, war, natural disasters and economic meltdown are, in a repetition of the characteristics of people born two generations before them, more open to volunteering.
I thought this was one of the more interesting paragraphs of the article:
The generation entering adulthood is also the first one intimately acquainted with the most advanced communication technologies the world has ever known – such as cell phones, text messaging and the Internet. And we know that having a social connection to someone who is civically engaged is an important predictor of whether someone volunteers.