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National Volunteers
Photo: Sean Okihiro
With a vision for community service, Michael Brown and Alan Khazei founded “City Year” in 1988. Then roommates at Harvard Law School, they believed that young people could be a major resource to address issues of these times. They continue to challenge young people of all backgrounds, ages 17-24, to volunteer for a demanding year of community service and leadership development in 16 U.S communities and Johannesburg, South Africa.

In an article published December 7, 2005, in the Boston GLOBE [www.Boston.com], Brown and Khazei proposed that service by all young people become a hallmark of citizenship for a generation that is characterized by a significantly higher civic commitment due to events such as 9/11 and the widespread devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina.

“It is time for a new call to service to meet the pressing needs of the nation, reinvigorate American citizenship, and provide access to the American dream.

“Our nation needs universal, voluntary national service -- the expectation that everyone should serve and the opportunity for everyone to do so -- linked to a new GI Bill that dramatically changes the life prospects of those who serve in the military and those who serve in our neediest schools and neighborhoods.

Civic Right of Passage

“Service to the nation -- whether in the armed services or a civilian service corps -- should become a defining emblem of the United States and a civic rite of passage for all young Americans. The most commonly asked question of an 18-year-old should be: ‘Where will you do your citizen service? The Army or AmeriCorps? The Marines or the National Civilian Community Corps? The Navy or the Peace Corps?’

“A new GI Bill could make this promise to every young American: ‘If you invest in your country, your country will invest in you. For every year you serve, America guarantees a year of tuition at a qualifying college, makes a down payment toward your first home, or provides a voucher to start a business, nonprofit organization, or IRA.’ Military service, which demands greater sacrifice, would garner higher benefits, but all who serve should be rewarded….

“National service has had a profound impact on America. Created by Bill Clinton who in part built on the Points of Light Foundation and the Commission on National and Community Service established by George H. W. Bush, AmeriCorps has enabled more than 400,000 citizens to serve with more than 2,500 nonprofit and faith-based organizations. These leaders have built affordable homes, helped thousands of children to read, provided millions of hours of after-school programs, reduced gang involvement, transformed blighted lots into community gardens and playgrounds, served as role models to children at risk, and generated millions of hours of service by the volunteers they recruit.

“A cost-benefit study of AmeriCorps determined that every federal dollar invested results in at least $1.60 to $2.60 in direct, measurable benefits. It is time for a dramatic increase in AmeriCorps, from 75,000 annually to 1 million strong, a domestic force against poverty and hopelessness.”

[For more details, check the following link:  www.cityyear.org]

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