This week marks a national celebration of AmeriCorps, presenting a great opportunity to recognize and honor this outstanding program.
Addressing our nation’s needs in education, the environment, public safety, emergency management and other human needs, national service programs like AmeriCorps utilize the tremendous power of citizens as change-agents in their communities.
With funding from the Corporation for National and Community Service and administration by Volunteer Florida, AmeriCorps members dedicate a year of their life to intensive community service in exchange for a small living stipend and college scholarship. The experience often leads to a life enriched by volunteering and in many cases, a career in nonprofits or public service.
Volunteer Florida currently administers funding for 1,366 AmeriCorps members serving our state in 28 programs, at well-known and respected nonprofits, faith-based and other community organizations. With a large emphasis on education, Florida’s AmeriCorps members served over 48,000 students in nearly 400 Florida schools in the past year.
Here in Okaloosa County, AmeriCorps members are serving in a program called “Ready to Intervene” at Northwest Florida State College. These AmeriCorps members provide support to K-5 students at 23 local schools through individual and small group tutoring on a regular basis, with 30-45 minute sessions 4-5 times per week per student.
AmeriCorps members serving with Goodwill Industries of the Big Bend are also providing services to Okaloosa County residents. This program is aimed at helping residents impacted by the economic downturn to access needed job training and supports. The program’s goal is to reach more than 200 clients in 12 counties, focusing on job training, resource connections, financial literacy and housing assistance.
Organizations like Northwest Florida State College and Goodwill apply and compete for AmeriCorps programs. Eligible organizations are required to provide matching funds between 24-50 percent for an AmeriCorps program, ensuring the program model is a sustainable one in which all parties are invested in success. Also, AmeriCorps members build capacity by recruiting additional volunteers for the sites where they serve — on average, one AmeriCorps member leverages six to 10 community volunteers.
This week celebrates the 80,000 men and women across our nation who engage in AmeriCorps every year, and the 3.4 million volunteers they mobilize. If you notice a local volunteer emblazoned with a signature AmeriCorps “A” on their sleeve, I hope you applaud them and their dedication to service.
Sam Seevers, the mayor of Destin, is a commissioner for Volunteer Florida, and serves on the Governor’s Commission on Community Service.