For many, the term “national service” evokes the image of our military. And true, military service is most definitely national service. But there’s a less talked about segment of national service which should not be overlooked in a well-functioning democracy. Civilian national service.
And when young people today talk about work, more than salary, we overwhelmingly want to make a positive impact. We want work that reflects our core values. Work with meaning. Unfortunately, insane amounts of student debt often just make that much more difficult.
I’d like to remind Grind listeners of a few options which don’t get the attention they warrant, as these programs often don’t spend money advertising. Programs like AmeriCorps, Teach for America, and the Peace Corps.
AmeriCorps members “Get. Things. Done.” From rebuilding homes with Habitat for Humanity to tutoring and mentoring in our nation’s public schools. Right now, 2,000 AmeriCorps members are deployed across the country, helping many families devastated after these most recent hurricanes and wildfires. AmeriCorps members fill vital areas of unmet needs throughout the United States.
And AmeriCorps offers different service programs for people of all ages. I served two terms with AmeriCorps NCCC, the National Civilian Community Corps. AmeriCorps NCCC is a 10-month, team-based, residential program specifically for young people aged 18-24. Together, with 12 of your peers, you’ll work on about four different 2-month long service projects. You’ll live and work with your team, 24/7, traveling to your projects across the country in a 15-passenger van. Casually, you could consider AmeriCorps NCCC to be a cross-country national service road trip. It’s an amazing year. And your teammates may very well become like a second family.
That was my experience.
Ten years ago, my team and I first had the privilege of working alongside the residents of the upper 9th ward of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. As you’d expect, the work was most certainly not always easy. But it was rewarding. And it was important.
Also, I learned how to build a house.
More than that though, AmeriCorps service set me off on an incredible path. Because AmeriCorps opens doors. For me, national service led me to continue traveling through my work. I’m 31 now, and I’m grateful that I can look back on my 20s and say that they were a debt-free decade traveling with intention through work with meaning.
It’s time we make it possible for more young people to be able to say the same.
There are other benefits to AmeriCorps service as well. Aside from the skills you learn, the network you grow, and the people you help, AmeriCorps covers travel, food, and housing expenses, of course. But also, health insurance, student loan deferment, scholarship money, and a growing network of employers who specifically seek to hire national service alumni.
AmeriCorps alums are strong leaders who are motivated, flexible, innovative, and outcome‐oriented.
Learn more about AmeriCorps NCCC and other national service programs at www.NationalService.gov.
Unfortunately, Congress continues to threaten to cut funding for national service, which is a shame because according to a report by economists at Columbia University: every dollar invested in national service generates almost $4 in returns to society in terms of higher earnings, increased output, and other community-wide benefits.
Please join us in telling Congress to protect national service at www.VoicesForService.org.
Learn more: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8Zb_XNIsPOk.
Adam Greenberg is a two-term national service alum of AmeriCorps, an Obama White House intern, and this coming Spring, a Peace Corps volunteer in Zambia. Questions about AmeriCorps? Happy to talk. Feel free to email AdamGreenberg@AmeriCorpsAlums.org. (AdamGreenberg.com is the official website of some guy by the same name.)