Does public service pay off? We think so.

May 22nd, 2009 by Admin

Mobilizing our citizenry through national service was a core theme of President Obama’s campaign. Yet that clarion call has been drowned out by the wrenching global financial crisis and its attendant recession. Letting this important initiative fall by the wayside would be a mistake because it presents a real opportunity for dramatic and measurable impact.

Consider this: Last year, 75,000 AmeriCorps members worked with 4,600 nonprofits nationally and, in turn, mobilized more than 1.7 million volunteers in places like New Orleans. These AmeriCorps jobs cost less than $20,000 on average and were so popular that AmeriCorps had to turn down two out of every three applicants.

A bipartisan group led by Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, Massachusetts Democrat, and Sen. Orrin Hatch, Utah Republican, is seeking to increase AmeriCorps to 250,000 members. The increase would cost $5 billion over five years (less than 1 percent of the colossal stimulus bill) and create 8 percent of the total number of new jobs sought by the Obama administration.

These new jobs would help get the underemployed (primarily young people) working in communities badly hit by the recession. They also would help those youths pay for college, the cost of which has been getting increasingly out of reach as tuition increases have surpassed inflation for years.

Importantly, engaging people in service early in their lives pays enormous dividends for their own personal and leadership development and creates a pipeline of agents of social change for decades to come. Take the more than 11,000 alumni of City Year (an AmeriCorps program) who have spent a year in service. Seventy percent of those alumni, called Leaders for Life, still volunteer 10 hours per month and are 65 percent more likely to volunteer than their peers. What’s more, 71 percent of them vote, while fewer than half of 18- to 40-year-olds in the United States do. More than 90 percent of City Year alumni reported that their service experience contributed to their ability to solve problems in their communities.

Another AmeriCorps program, Teach for America (TFA), (read more…)

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