Across Campus Compact, there are nearly 500 AmeriCorps members serving in campuses across the country and in community organizations. There are also a number of Bonner Scholars who receive a partial AmeriCorps education award as undergraduates.
I had the opportunity to attend the Eastern Region Campus Compact convening in NYC this week when the announcement came through that President Trump had proposed to zero out (defund) the Corporation for National and Community Service, the federal agency that provides oversight for AmeriCorps. There are also drastic cuts looming in foreign aid through which the Peace Corps is funded. It remains unclear how Youth Build will be impacted. They are funded through the Department of Labor.
I was already mentally exhausted by the time I made it to the conference at 8am. I had a quick chat with my friend and colleague, Dr. Andrew Seligsohn (President of Campus Compact) regarding the news and whether he might say a few words at some point in the day.
Shortly thereafter (and unbeknownst to me), the New Jersey Director Saul Peterson kicked off the day. He asked those who had served or were currently serving in AmeriCorps to stand. Then he asked those who had been impacted by AmeriCorps to stand. The entire room stood. It was a powerful, re-energizing moment and he went on to explain why it was so important to highlight the contributions of AmeriCorps members on that day in particular. Throughout the day it kept coming up. Colleagues came up to me asking how they might help, and I appreciated the opportunity to address all of the attendees at lunch to describe what tools we had available and what they could expect from us.
It was a difficult day, and will continue to be difficult in weeks and months to come, but I am so grateful to have spent the day with people who “get it” and aren’t afraid to take action. Keep calling your members of Congress. Tweet and Email them. Attend town halls or visit your local offices. Advocacy starts with you.
And as is typical, I’m ending with a quote from The West Wing: “I fought you, I lost, I had a drink, I took a shower. ‘Cause that’s how it is in the NBA.” Not ready to lose yet.