By Barbara Moffat and Emily Haber
In his inaugural address, President John F. Kennedy asked Americans what they could do for their country. Nearly 60 years later, thousands are answering that question by serving in AmeriCorps, a national service program administered by the Corporation for National and Community Service. Across Massachusetts, 2,400 AmeriCorps members are serving this year, addressing the Commonwealth’s most pressing needs in the areas of education, health, workforce development, and the environment.
The week of March 10-16 is AmeriCorps Week, which celebrates the valuable contributions of the AmeriCorps members who pledge to “get things done” for America. In Massachusetts, AmeriCorps members are tutoring and mentoring at-risk youth pre-K through high school, expanding access to recovery and treatment services for those struggling with opioid addiction, preparing communities for natural disasters, teaching young people how to grow and cook nutritious foods, providing support services to refugees and immigrants, preserving and rehabilitating our forests and waters, and more.
This year, AmeriCorps members are serving at three locations in Chelsea. Two FoodCorps AmeriCorps members are at Healthy Chelsea, providing hands-on nutrition education to youth through growing, cooking, and eating healthy foods. An AmeriCorps member with the Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy (MIRA) Coalition is assisting refugees and immigrants with job readiness, citizenship, and English language instruction at the Chelsea Collaborative. Phoenix Charter Academy in Chelsea has three AmeriCorps members serving as academic tutors and mentors for formerly out-of-school young adults.
“Whether it’s serving a year in a pre-K classroom or on the trails in our state parks, our dedicated AmeriCorps members are making lasting change in cities and towns all across this great Commonwealth. They are meeting local needs, they are developing leadership skills, and for many, they will choose to stay in Massachusetts after their year of service and remain active and engaged citizens making a difference in our communities every day,” said MSA CEO Emily Haber.
AmeriCorps members in Massachusetts may receive a modest living allowance, student loan deferment, health insurance, childcare, and professional development. Members who successfully complete their service receive an educational award of up to $6,095 to help pay for college, graduate school, vocational training, or to pay off student loans.
Since AmeriCorps began in 1994, more than 35,000 Massachusetts residents have served through the national service program, generating over $1.13 billion in community impact. These AmeriCorps members have also earned $63.2 million in education awards. Those interested in joining AmeriCorps can learn more at AmeriCorps.gov/join.
The Massachusetts Service Alliance, established in 1991, is a private, nonprofit organization that serves as the state commission on community service and volunteerism. MSA invests in community-based organizations and institutions that rely upon volunteers and people engaged in service. Through investing, convening, advocating, and building capacity, MSA develops and supports programs like AmeriCorps that incorporate service and volunteerism as effective strategies to address the most pressing needs in the Commonwealth. To learn more about MSA’s role across the state, visit www.mass-service.org.
Barbara Moffat is the Associate Vice President for Media and Community Relations at Western New England University in Springfield. She serves as the Chair of the Massachusetts Service Alliance (MSA).
Emily Haber is the CEO of the Massachusetts Service Alliance (MSA). MSA administers federal AmeriCorps grants to 25 programs in Massachusetts, supporting 1,400 AmeriCorps members.