Voices From Voices: 2011

Today’s guest blog is written by 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.

I consider myself lucky to work at City Year New York – daily I get to interact with our amazing staff and passionate Corps Members. But it is rare that I get to spend a full day with like-minded organizations, advocating for the work that we get to do and for the communities that we get to serve. Last Thursday, I was privileged to spend the day on the Hill in DC with Voices for National Service, fighting for critical funding that keeps so many amazing programs alive.

There are incredible non-profits in New York that are leveraging federal dollars through AmeriCorps members to meet critical needs. Kathy, from the Rockland County AmeriCorps, is fighting to get back funding she lost in the cuts last year, and is working to ensure that her Environmental, Educational and Civic Engagement Corps can meet the needs of the community. Or Monthina, who works with Habitat NYC and is tasked with building 100 units, over the next few years. She relies heavily on AmeriCorps members to get the job done – in fact, they make up half of her full time work force. Or Lucian, who works with Green City Force to ensure that the unemployment rates that plague our city aren’t a reality forever, and even better, trains AmeriCorps members in green jobs that result in 80% job or college placement after Green City Force. Or, Catherine from NYRP, which has the hefty task of planting a million trees in ten years. But with the help of a 14 year old AmeriCorps program, NYRP is set to plant their 500,000 tree ahead of schedule. Or, Mary from Reserve Inc who is giving people 55 and older the opportunity to serve organizations like schools and libraries. It’s remarkable to me that my colleagues across the state and across the country both continue to do more with less, but also hold out hope that eventually we will see the realization of the Edward Kennedy Serve America Act – that eventually, we will all be able to grow.

With unemployment rates nearing 20%, for 17-25 year olds, programs like ours are critical. And it was refreshing to get to meet with elected officials on the Hill that not only believe in our work, but are willing to stand up and speak out in support of CNCS despite a difficult budget season ahead. A huge thank you to Senator Gillibrand, Congressmen Serrano, Engel, Rangel and Congresswoman Lowey, Velazquez, and Maloney for taking the time to hear about our work, and for agreeing to continue to support us in the upcoming budget battle. Your support means that we can continue to provide critical services to combat the high school drop-out crisis, environmental challenges, housing shortages, and unemployment.

There is a hard year ahead. While applications for AmeriCorps have increased 67% since 2008, opportunities to serve have been cut.  We are a generation answering the call to service, and I hope that for years to come, there will be places for us to do just that. I was lucky enough to serve with City Year New York six years ago, at a middle school in the South Bronx. Our Corps Members still serve in that school, and I hope that if they ever leave that schools, it is because they are no longer needed, not because our program was cut.

Click here to see our post from last year’s Hill Day.

For more information about Voices for National Service, please visit www.saveservice.com.