By Senator Kelly Ayotte (R-NH)
Today marks 21 years since the first class of AmeriCorps members was sworn in on the White House lawn. It would be hard to imagine what New Hampshire’s parks and inner city schools would be like today if we didn’t issue that call to service more than two decades ago. Or even what our communities and businesses — both in New Hampshire and all across the country — would be without the leadership of a generation of young Americans who have been given the opportunity to serve.
AmeriCorps and Senior Corps members serving in our schools, our health centers and our communities struggling with poverty and natural disasters make a tremendous impact in local communities every day, and I am proud of their service to New Hampshire and our country.
Earlier this year at City Year’s Starry Starry Night gala, I had the privilege of meeting a 3rd-grade student at Henry Wilson Elementary School in Manchester named Michael. Hearing Michael speak with pride about his school, his teachers and the AmeriCorps members who tutor and mentor him every day while serving with City Year, was inspiring.
I accepted an invitation to visit Michael at Henry Wilson and meet the AmeriCorps members he talked about, and during my visit I saw first-hand the impact that national service has in strengthening schools and communities across our state. I am confident that Michael’s future is bright, in large part because he has these passionate young Americans as role models and mentors in his life. It’s clear that AmeriCorps members play a critical role both inside and outside of the classroom and New Hampshire’s students benefit from their service.
As a strong believer in the value of national service, I was proud to include an amendment in the Senate budget resolution this past spring that calls for protecting the Corporation for National and Community Service, which supports funding for AmeriCorps and Senior Corps. I’ve stood firm throughout the budget process because of children like Michael and because of the 21 classes of AmeriCorps alums who continue to serve in our schools and our communities.
But, standing for national service cannot only be a task for us in Washington, or a priority of one political party. This is a cause that all of us in New Hampshire must embrace.
More than 3,000 AmeriCorps and Senior Corps members make a meaningful impact throughout New Hampshire every day. From keeping students on track to graduate to assisting with natural disaster relief services, and from combating poverty to providing education and stewardship around environmental issues — national service members have a role to play in addressing our state and country’s most pressing issues.
I encourage those on both sides of the aisle to join me in standing for national service. If we stand together, we can ensure that all students have inspiring mentors and role models, just like Michael does.
This piece originally appeared in the Keene Sentinel on September 12, 2015.