Friday
Sep 20
2013
September 20, 2013

AmeriCorps at 20: Building on a Legacy of Service

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“Today we are taking a stand in this country for the proposition that if we challenge people to serve and we give them a chance to fulfill their abilities, more and more and more we will all understand that we must go forward together. This is the profoundest lesson of this whole endeavor. And it will be the great legacy of the wonderful people who make it come alive.” President Bill Clinton, on the signing of the National Community Service and Trust Act of 1993, September 21, 1993

In the 20 years since President Clinton signed the bill that created AmeriCorps, we have delivered on a promise that changed the way Americans think about service and how the generations that followed thinks about themselves.

Thanks to the National and Community Service and Trust Act of 1993, new generations were asked to answer a challenge that has come from leaders of both political parties: What will you do to make a difference in the lives of others?

Thanks to the National and Community Service and Trust Act of 1993, new generations were asked to answer a challenge that has come from leaders of both political parties: What will you do to make a difference in the lives of others?

Prior to this bill, the primary route for young adults to serve their country was through the armed forces. With the creation of AmeriCorps, they gained another option that stood on the shoulders of history and great American traditions such as the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s and ’40s, and the Peace Corps and VISTA that established their roots in the 1960s.

This tradition embraces the idea that service can be a solution for many of the challenges our country faces. Today, many of our communities are working to improve students’ classroom performance, strengthen food security, preserve environmental resources, support veterans and military families, fight poverty, or respond to disasters.

Each year, close to 80,000 AmeriCorps members delivers the type of service that answers these and many other local needs with an enthusiastic group of people who are committed to getting things done.

Each year, close to 80,000 AmeriCorps members delivers the type of service that answers these and many other local needs with an enthusiastic group of people who are committed to getting things done. During the last 20 years, over 820,000 AmeriCorps members have contributed more than 1 billion hours of service that have made a difference in the lives of millions of Americans. 

In exchange for their commitment, they are learning about themselves by working on teams with diverse backgrounds and experiences. Their service gives them the chance to believe in what they are doing, while doing what they believe in. These assignments increase our members’ understanding of community issues and create a sense of civic responsibility that carries on long after their term of service is completed.

Additionally, our nation benefits because each member who completes their service receives a Segal AmeriCorps Educational Award that helps them pay for college or pursue graduate studies. These educational awards have opened doors to greater economic opportunity for AmeriCorps alumni who have earned more than $2.4 billion to defray the costs of a college education over the last two decades.

Thanks to AmeriCorps, a whole new generation of community and national leaders are being created as they learn that freedom doesn’t mean freedom from responsibility. Our members are giving back, whether that takes the form of teaching our children, becoming community leaders, developing social policy, or taking public office.

They’ve given their time, energy, hearts, and minds to the belief that we can create a better country together – one person, one team, and one project at a time.

We can’t wait to see what the next 20 years will bring!