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Building Stronger Communities With AmeriCorps
When Molly France decided to tag along with a friend who was serving through AmeriCorps in a Washington, D.C. neighborhood preschool, she had no idea how much the experience would change the course of her life. Seeing the impact she had on children ages 3-5 as an AmeriCorps member working at a Jumpstart program at The Catholic University of America and St. Anthony’s School, she knew she wanted to do more to serve her community. One AmeriCorps program led to another—she joined Teach For America as a 2010 D.C. Region corps member, which brought her back to the same neighborhood where she had worked with children only a few years earlier.
Molly became a founding teacher at Creative Minds International Public Charter School and continues to serve in the education field as Director of Early Childhood and Academic Data. She develops the school’s early childhood curriculum and supports 15 teachers. She credits her AmeriCorps experience for putting her on path to a meaningful career.
“The AmeriCorps model of on-the-ground presence in neighborhoods across the country allowed me to find and define my path as an educator,” Molly said. “Without it, I know that I would not be in the career I am today.”
Making Teaching a Financially Viable Option
For many aspiring teachers—especially those who share the socioeconomic backgrounds of the students that Teach For America serves—the costs of pursuing higher education and teaching certification can be a deterrent to entering the profession.
This means that teachers who have the potential to make the biggest impact on students may be cut off from these opportunities. “Without AmeriCorps education awards, loan forbearance, and interest repayments to help reduce the economic barriers associated with our work, these promising individuals may choose careers and callings elsewhere,” said Tia Morris, Executive Director for Teach For America’s New Jersey region.
AmeriCorps funding makes teaching a financially viable option for people who want to make an immediate impact through service in the classroom. Through TFA’s partnership with AmeriCorps, corps members are eligible to receive financial support that can be used toward future educational expenses, such as a certification or master’s degree courses, or to repay student loans.
When Miguel Cervantes del Toro was accepted into the Teach For America 2009 Baltimore corps, the cost of obtaining teacher certification and earning a master’s degree would have been a barrier without the support from the AmeriCorps education award. “My path to the classroom was supported by AmeriCorps,” said Miguel. “I could not have made the choice to teach if it wasn’t for that support.”
What‘s at Stake if AmeriCorps Funding is Cut
For every dollar invested in national service, we see a return of nearly $4 in terms of higher earnings, increased economic activity, and other community-wide benefits. However, the Trump administration has proposed the elimination of the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) in FY 2019, the agency that currently provides funding for national service programs such as AmeriCorps. The president’s proposal is currently open for bipartisan debate as Congress works to approve a national budget over the coming months.
Without continued funding for CNCS, we will eliminate a vital network of support within our communities—volunteers who educate and mentor young people, help rebuild homes, provide social services and keep neighborhoods safe—putting our most vulnerable students and communities at risk. These cuts would hinder Teach For America’s ability to recruit a diverse pool of leaders into classrooms and cut out volunteers who serve in nearly 12,000 schools across the country.
This means students in underresourced communities will have fewer opportunities to have teachers like Molly, Deontre, and Miguel—who not only serve as early childhood educators, mentors, and role models, but also build bridges to a life of opportunity.
Here are steps you can take to advocate to your local representatives for keeping AmeriCorps funding in the budget.