Voices from Voices

Today’s guest blog is written by Itai Dinour, our Executive Director, and Maris Goodstein, our Chief of Staff and City Year New York alumna (’06-07) who participated in the Voices for National Service Congressional Hill Day, an annual gathering of the diverse coalition of national service programs, state commissions, and champions committed to expanding opportunities for Americans of all ages to serve and volunteer.

We are proud that City Year New York receives AmeriCorps funding through the Serve America Act.

Today, we traveled to our nation’s capital and shared with the New York Congressional delegation how these federal dollars are making a difference in classrooms and schools. In addition, joined by our partners in service from across New York State including Western New York AmeriCorps, Buffalo AmeriCorps (The Belle Center), StreetWise Partners, and Rockland County AmeriCorps, we shared how our programs can scale to address critical local and national needs.

A few reflections from our jammed packed day:

New York is the service state! After meeting with the offices of Senators Schumer and Gillibrand, and Members of Congress Towns, Lowey, Serrano, Nadler, & Engel, we excited by how committed and informed the New York Congressional Delegation is about AmeriCorps programs and their continued growth. In fact, Congresswoman Nita Lowey was an inspiring speaker at the Service Works Policy Dialogue, sponsored by City Year champion National Grid. In addition, the Washington DC office of Governor Paterson was instrumental in setting up today’s meetings – thank you Rebecca Fertig!

Money is tight, yet support is bi-partisan! One of our key points of discussion was the relatively small differential ($100 Million out of a $1.4 Billion) in funding requests between the White House Budget and that of the House Appropriations Committee. Staffers explained the uncertainty of the upcoming budget process, but the importance of growing the bi-partisan support for national service. In fact, many members of our delegation are already Members of the National Service Congressional Caucus, while those who have not yet joined are interested in learning more. We hope all members of the New York delegation will join as in a tight budget season, those with the loudest voice (and proven track record) have the greatest chance of success.

Alumni are everywhere! Throughout the day, we learned that many Congressional staffers are either themselves AmeriCorps alumni or have close friends who participated in AmeriCorps. We realized that our message was greeted with passion and a big smile when Capitol Hill staffers had a personal connection to service. Alumni, these are your ripples. Thank you for making our jobs easier.

We work in a strong & growing field! A highlight of the day was getting to learn more from our colleagues about how their AmeriCorps members are addressing a wide range of issues from asthma in Buffalo, to environmental conservation in Rockland County, and neighborhood beautifications in Western New York.

Before we close, we wanted to give a big thank you to John, an intern in Congressman Engel’s office, for the personal escort through the Capitol Subway system to the Senate side. Good luck in your public service endeavors.

Finally, thank you to our friends at Voices for National Service, especially AnnMaura Connolly, Jennifer Ney, and Matthew George for making today possible. We are excited to participate again in the future. Also, check out AnnMaura’s recent blog post on the Case Foundation network:“Voices for National Service: From Nice to Necessary.”

Stay tuned for future updates on the growth of AmeriCorps.