Today marks an important milestone for our nation. The Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) has sworn in over one million AmeriCorps members, so many of whom devote their service to ensuring that every child has the opportunity succeed. Since AmeriCorps launched in 1994, young people have dedicated themselves to public service through a range of projects from rebuilding communities to mentoring students. At the United States Department of Education, we are proud to partner with thousands of AmeriCorps members each year. As we celebrate CNCS’ historic accomplishment, I want to thank AmeriCorps members for all they have done to support students, strengthen schools, and promote opportunity in our nation.
When President Obama took office in 2009, he made it clear that national service was a major priority. He signed the Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act, launched innovative AmeriCorps partnerships and created the President’s Task Force on Expanding National Service. The President and our team at the Department also recognize the essential role that AmeriCorps members play in our schools. In 2013, we launched the School Turnaround AmeriCorps program to help uplift schools in struggling communities. We committed $2.5 million a year for five years to ensure that schools with the greatest challenges benefit from AmeriCorps’ members hard work and zeal for service. And just a few months ago, we announced the second group of grant awards to seven organizations working across 10 states. A recent study of the program showed how School Turnaround AmeriCorps’ efforts are working. In schools across the country, AmeriCorps members are becoming a key part of building positive school cultures, improving educators’ capacity in the classroom, and forming strong relationships with students that help them learn essential academic and socioemotional skills.
CNCS programs, including AmeriCorps, are also a vital part of President Obama’s My Brother’s Keeper (MBK) initiative. CNCS has committed $15 million in grant awards over the next three years to support the Summer Opportunity AmeriCorps that will enable up to 20,000 young people to learn new skills and earn money for college. In addition, this year, CNCS announced a new partnership with the My Brother’s Keeper Alliance to place up to 20 AmeriCorps VISTA members in MBK communities each year. Across the nation, nearly 250 cities and rural and tribal areas have launched and are executing local action plans to create more opportunities for all students as MBK Communities. AmeriCorps is also a key leader of the MBK Success Mentors initiative, which works with MENTOR, Attendance Works, Johns Hopkins University and other partner organizations focused on supporting student attendance.
AmeriCorps members lead this important work because they are champions for opportunity. They know that as mentor, an advocate, and even a volunteer, you can change a community for the better. As a nation, we are truly better off because of the million AmeriCorps members that have served and improved our neighborhoods. I want to thank them on behalf of our Department and on behalf of the millions of students and families that have benefited from their service. The service of the first million AmeriCorps members has been invaluable, and I cannot wait to see the impact of the next million. To learn more about how to get involved in AmeriCorps, visit their website here.
James Cole, Jr., is the General Counsel, Delegated the Duties of Deputy Secretary of Education.