I want to tell you about my two years of National Service with AmeriCorps.
When I was 19 I became a VISTA, for the Chicago Housing Authority Recycling Buy-back Program.
We provided alternate income sources for people living in public housing, employment opportunities for people who might have otherwise been denied jobs, supported locally owned markets, AND protected the environment through reducing litter and recycling reusable materials.
I learned so much about the amazing impact people can have on multiple issues, working together, for the betterment of all. I got to know people whose lives differed from mine in every way, and learned to expand my understanding of what it means to be a citizen of the United States, and a human being.
Two years later, I served again, this time with City Year, an organization that provides literacy tutoring in at-risk schools.
I learned to advocate in a professional way, to reach out to elected officials and support a cause. I learned how the cogs of government can move, albeit slowly, to protect people in need and empower citizens. I learned how huge the impact of a single person on the life of a child can be.
I learned how desperate people are to find help for the neediest among us, children, and I learned that sometimes, in order to help anyone, you have to say no to helping everyone. It was a difficult year for me, as disillusioning as my first term with AmeriCorps had been inspiring, but equally vital in teaching me how necessary the work of volunteers, and yes, the government, can be.
It's why I went on to study policy and public administration. It's why I work in non-profit now.
The work done by the young people in AmeriCorps is VITAL. To every community City Year serves, to every organization aided by a VISTA, to every classroom improved by a Teach For America volunteer... to every person in this country, who all reap the benefit of a healthy, more educated, cleaner, safer country.
Write to your congressional representative. CALL THEM. Show up in their office.
Tell them you support the work AmeriCorps does. Tell them AmeriCorps volunteers are some of the most selfless people in this country, the most motivated to getting things done. Tell them that every dollar that goes into AmeriCorps, and it is not a lot of dollars, is money that is truly well spent.
Tell them you support giving young people a way to give back to their country without sending them off to war. Tell them young people want to solve problems here at home, too. Tell them National Service is more than fighting wars. It is building communities, right here, right now, every day.
Read more about ways you can make a difference in your community here: I Take My Kids To Donate Blood
Read my latest post here: A Much Belated Tally Of 2016