Twenty years ago, President Clinton made a historic commitment to community service by the National Community Service and Trust Act of 1993, which led to the creation of AmeriCorps. Over 820,000 people have participated in the program over the last two decades, devoting more than one billion hours to service in their communities. The University of Arkansas Clinton School of Public Service builds on this legacy as the first university in the country to offer a Masters of Public Service Degree, providing hundreds of young people with the opportunity to address daunting challenges in their communities and around the world. To commemorate the 20th anniversary of AmeriCorps, Bolton Kirchner and Brenda Hernandez – two students at the Clinton School – offer their thoughts on what they’ve learned about public service and how it can shape the future. Brenda, former AmeriCorps Vista volunteer, shares with us what being a public servant means to her.
To me, service means looking beyond my personal needs and my individual aspirations. At a very young age, I was exposed by my grandfather to many issues related to poverty in our community. I quickly learned to take ownership of and pride in my community. Instead of complaining about problems, we worked collectively to create the change we wanted to see around us. As a young adult, I became passionate about creating awareness of the importance of civic participation, education, and social justice. However, it wasn’t until college that I really knew how to put that passion into practice.
Instead of complaining about problems, we worked collectively to create the change we wanted to see around us.
My undergraduate career at the University of California, Berkeley, exposed me to even broader social issues. During this time, my passion and commitment to create social change only grew deeper when I realized how privileged I was to be in my situation. During college, I was suddenly in an environment where giving a voice to the voiceless was strongly encouraged. Individuals made it their personal mission to create positive change that would impact marginalized communities, and that quickly became the norm for me, as well. We did not always succeed in achieving the results we wanted, but we knew that creating awareness of important issues and motivating others to take action was just as critical as our original goal.
Today, service is what drives me to dedicate my life to continue working toward more equitable local, national, and global communities. Helping create change around us is gradual, but imperative.
Today, service is what drives me to dedicate my life to continue working toward more equitable local, national, and global communities. Helping create change around us is gradual, but imperative. By becoming more invested in our communities, we are not only helping create positive change, but also setting an example for the next generation of leaders in America. My involvement with organizations such as AmeriCorps helped strengthen my commitment to public service. It takes fearless and resilient individuals to dedicate their lives to social change but with their stewardship, social change is created daily around the world. To me, service is being an agent of change wherever I go, which I consider both an honor and responsibility that I will continue to work toward achieving every day.