current budget proposal the White House has submitted to Congress eliminates funding for the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS), the federal agency that funds AmeriCorps. AmeriCorps places thousands of young adults into intensive service positions where they make a deep, positive impact on communities with which they engage. While the community feels the tremendous benefit of each member’s dedicated service, AmeriCorps volunteers learn valuable work skills, earn money for education and develop an appreciation for engaged citizenship. If Congress adopts this proposed budget, work organizations that leverage the time and talent of AmeriCorps members such as City Year and College Possible would lose a critical component that allows them to serve students and communities who both need and deserve our support. For the past two decades, the support of AmeriCorps has allowed partner agencies such as City Year and College Possible to provide these critical services to the Chicago community. This year alone, 2,600 AmeriCorps members across Illinois have provided intensive, results-driven service to meet some of our most pressing needs: access to education, the environment, public health and veteran support. The application of AmeriCorps members allows these nonprofit organizations to scale at a faster rate, raise additional private sector funds, and reach more students.
In the case of City Year Chicago, AmeriCorps allows the organization to serve 13,000 students in 26 schools across Chicago, helping students reach the 10th grade on time and on track, ready to succeed. AmeriCorps helps College Possible Chicago support more high school and college students—students who, because of this support, attain a 98 percent college acceptance rate and are four times more likely to graduate college than their peers. The benefits to the community from these volunteers are two-fold. The young people who participate in AmeriCorps programs also become the pipeline of civic-minded leaders, future educators and innovators who shape our collective tomorrow—innovators like us. Christine Poorman, executive director of College Possible Chicago, served as an AmeriCorps VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America) in a Michigan housing project and helped to create resources for students. It was Christine’s experience as a VISTA that laid the foundation for a career to support students like the ones her organization, College Possible, serves. These are students like Jessica Brooks, who once lived in a neighborhood challenged by poverty, homelessness and gang violence. College Possible helped Jessica turn her dream of going to college into a reality by providing the additional mentoring, tutoring and scholarship support she needed to succeed. Jessica is now a first-generation college graduate who served with the College Possible organization as an AmeriCorps member. For Rebeca Nieves Huffman, executive director of City Year Chicago, the Segal AmeriCorps Educational Award she received for service as a Chicago City Year AmeriCorps member enabled her to become a first-generation college graduate. She served in the Humboldt Park community of Chicago, where she was raised. At Piccolo Elementary, she witnessed the crisis in public education. For the 396,683 Chicago public school students who fall into the category of “economically disadvantaged,” education beyond high school is often considered a luxury. This is why Rebeca has dedicated her career to ensuring all children have access to a quality education. Rebeca, Jessica and Christine serve as the quintessential examples of how AmeriCorps programs, their members, and the communities they serve can reap the benefits of service many times over. Chicago is the third largest city in America and has a public-school population with many economically disadvantaged students who desperately need additional support. For the future of Chicago, work programs that utilize AmeriCorps members are essential in not only building a strong, engaged education system and community, but also preparing our civic-minded leaders to take on the challenges of tomorrow.
Christine Poorman is executive director of College Possible Chicago. Before joining College Possible, Christine led the Chicago office of the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE), which she launched as a start-up and grew to be one of their highest performing program offices. In her position, Christine was responsible for setting the strategy, board development, fundraising and public ...