One of the questions I am frequently asked is What is AmeriCorps? (Pronounced Uh-mare-i-core) Many people are familiar with the Peace Corps, and AmeriCorps is often referred to as the “domestic Peace Corps.”
Both AmeriCorps and Peace Corps members are not employees, but are paid a small living stipend to offset their expenses for their time of service. Both offer individuals challenging and rewarding opportunities to serve in various capacities to strengthen communities.
Over 420,000 Americans have served full-time in the Peace Corps in more than 142 countries across the world since 1961. Currently, there are 7,334 members and trainees serving in sixty-one countries. The average age of members is 26 and 99% are unmarried. Peace Corps members receive three months of training and serve for two years in their service country. They focus on developing sustainable solutions for the world’s most pressing challenges such as education, youth development, health, agriculture and community economic development.
More than 800,000 AmeriCorps members have served in 15,000 service sites in the United States since 1994, completing over one billion hours of service. AmeriCorps consists of three main programs: AmeriCorps State and National, whose members serve with national and local nonprofit and community groups; AmeriCorps VISTA, through which members serve full-time fighting poverty; and AmeriCorps NCCC (National Civilian Community Corps), a team-based residential program for young adults 18-24 who carry out projects in public safety, the environment, youth development, and disaster relief and preparedness.
There are seven hundred AmeriCorps service sites in Indiana, engaging more than seven thousand members ranging in age from high school students to retirees. Their projects include assisting with housing, tutoring, mentoring, and after-school programs, educational programs that help students develop life skills, critical thinking and self management, and programs addressing targeted community needs such as the United Against Opioid Abuse initiative.
Many AmeriCorps members are recent college graduates looking to expand their leadership skills and experiences before entering the workforce or grad school. Benefits for AmeriCorps members include student loan deferment during their service and the Segal Educational award that can be used to pay educational loans or additional education.
While conducting service site assignments, members are to be absolutely neutral in politics and religious activities. They are prohibited from influencing legislation or elections, organizing protests or boycotts, or providing direct benefits to unions, businesses or partisan political organizations.
The AmeriCorps pledge states the goals and philosophy of service:
I will get things done for America - to make our people safer, smarter, and healthier.
I will bring Americans together to strengthen our communities.
Faced with apathy, I will take action.
Faced with conflict, I will seek common ground.
Faced with adversity, I will persevere.
I will carry this commitment with me this year and beyond.
I am an AmeriCorps member, and I will get things done.
Both the Peace Corps and AmeriCorps provide people of all ages opportunities to make their community and the world a better place.
Lynn Saylor is the AmeriCorps member working with the United Against Opioid Abuse Initiative alongside the White County United Way. She is a major facilitator of the United Council on Opioids serving White County and a regular contributor to local media.