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Mikulski: A New Spirit of Service
By Alejandra Owens, March 25, 2009 09:30 AM
SPECIAL GUEST BLOG FOR SHAARPSESSION
BY SENATOR BARBARA A. MIKULSKI:
"There is a new, invigorated spirit of service in the United States of America. Americans everywhere are looking to serve and give back to their country. They want to know how they can give and how they can help. They want to be part of an effort to improve society.
"Last month, more than 9,700 applications were submitted to AmeriCorps, more than triple the amount of applications submitted at the same time last year. Last year, 35,000 college seniors applied for 4,000 Teach for America positions.
"This week we brought legislation to the floor of the United States Senate which will allow millions more Americans to answer the call of service. The Serve America Act is the most sweeping overhaul and expansion of national service programs in 16 years. It is not a Democratic bill, it is an American bill.
"The Serve America Act updates and strengthens national service programs administrated by the Corporation for National and Community Service, a federal agency I helped create in 1993. It increases the number of AmeriCorps volunteers from 75,000 to 250,000 a year. And it creates new programs to address specific areas of national need. Volunteers will be actively engaged in mentoring and tutoring kids, weatherizing low-income homes, promoting health and wellness, and increasing access to health care. The bill will also engage boomers and older Americans in Encore Fellowships to allow this generation to put their skills and experience to work at home and overseas.
"Many years ago I, too, answered the call to serve. After graduate school, I went down to the VISTA training center in Baltimore to teach volunteers how to be effective in the communities they serve. Seeing that group of determined people making a difference through gumption and hard work really made an impact on me. It was a wonderful experience. One that has colored everything I've done since. And, in giving back, I discovered I got more than I ever gave. This bill is an investment that will engage Americans of all generations and pay dividends long beyond anything we can imagine. It represents the best of America's ideals--spirited volunteerism and the willingness to lend a helping to those in need."