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Jenna Carrigan ACF Abstract FY11

"AmeriCorps: Love It or Lose It"

Teaching Public Administration Conference

Jenna Carrigan

This paper focuses on the extraordinary impact of the national service program, AmeriCorps. By exploring the rich history of government subsidized initiatives, we are able to recognize that the integration of AmeriCorps has substantially improved issues in social justice, increased environmental sustainability and has positively impacted market systems in the United States(Perry, Thompson, Tschirhart, Mesch, & Lee, 1999). Additionally, the session will highlight the history of service in the United States, the importance of the government funded initiatives, and the role they play in the teaching of volunteerism.

President George Bush declared nearly 20 years ago that volunteering is something close to a patriotic obligation to serve America(Wofford, 2002). In the spirit of nationalism, civic engagement began in the period of the founding fathers; the American people desired a sense of community and naturally, service to others was the foundation in achieving this unity. Poverty, hunger, and homelessness are just a sample of the many hardships facing Americans today. With this in mind, President Clinton created a domestic service organization in 1991 called AmeriCorps, which has become the foundation for lifelong service initiatives in America(Wofford, 2002). By learning and teaching the history of service initiatives in America, it easier to understand both the need and significance of government funded service programs.

Just as the history of volunteerism is rich, the impact of AmeriCorps is unbounded. Since its initiation, an estimated 500,000 members have served their country and had an economic impact of two billion dollars (AmeriCorps, 2011). [M2] The lifelong effects on AmeriCorps members are exceptional as they experience heightened leadership skills, an awareness of social and environmental issues in America, and a general sense of optimism for the future (Briggs & Peterson 2010). By creating awareness of AmeriCorps and other service initiatives in the classroom, students learn the importance of civic engagement and are able to apply classroom knowledge to real word situations.

Service programs act as a teaching tool for students as it provides opportunity for connections outside the classroom to the greater world at hand; it does so while allowing for collaboration between Americans from diverse backgrounds to accomplish a collective outcome. Additionally, it brings classroom curriculum alive by placing students in capacities that encourage continued education to combat the social and environmental issues they embrace during their year of committed service work.

Times are tough, yet volunteer rates continue to soar and are at an all-time high. Higher education is placing an emphasis on active citizenship with various service programs, children are beginning to volunteer at a young age, and opportunities for civic engagement are limitless. The initiation of AmeriCorps has undoubtedly begun an ambitious movement in the United States. The future of volunteerism is bright, and service initiatives will continue to be an irreplaceable teaching aid for students and citizens alike. Blaisdell, E. (2011, February 27). Bill could cut AmeriCorps funding . Cumberland Time-News, p. 1. Briggs, E, & Peterson, M. (2010). Toward a better understanding of volunteering for nonprofit organizations: explaining volunteers' pro-social attitudes. Journal of Macromarketing, 1(30), 61-76. Harkavy, Ira. (2006). The role of universities in advancing justice in the 21st century. ECSJ, 1(1), 5-37.

Perry, J.L., Thompson, A.M., Tschirhart, M., Mesch, D., & Lee, G. (1999). Inside a swiss army knife:an assessment of AmeriCorps. Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory, 9(2), 225-250.
Wofford, Harris. (2002). The politics of service: how a nation got behind AmeriCorps. The Brookings Review, 20(4), 14-17.