A Teach For America alumnus writing on a blackboard

Building Stronger Communities With AmeriCorps

Each year over 80,000 AmeriCorps volunteers gain exposure to opportunities that build stronger communities—and often lead them to choose lifelong careers with impact. Learn what you can do to protect funding for this program.
Monday, March 12, 2018

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.”

A Gateway Into a Career of Service

AmeriCorps is a network of national service programs that connects more than 80,000 people each year with opportunities to serve in their communities. Members who join AmeriCorps address community needs such as education, poverty, disaster relief, support for veterans, and protecting the environment. Programs like Habitat for Humanity, Big Brothers, Big Sisters, and City Year all fall under the AmeriCorps umbrella. So does Teach For America, many of whose corps members serve as AmeriCorps members.

“AmeriCorps mobilizes hundreds of thousands of people every year to dedicate their time to making our country a better and more equitable place to live,” said Teach For America’s CEO, Elisa Villanueva Beard (Phoenix ’98). “We’re connected as partners of AmeriCorps.”

During his senior year in college, Deontre Clayton found his calling as a tutor with the Black Child Development Institute, a local AmeriCorps program in Greensboro, North Carolina. Deontre grew up in a low-income community and could relate to what his students were going through. His students looked up to him as a role model—someone who shared their background and could show them the path to life opportunities that may have seemed out of reach. 

Deontre’s passion for mentoring young students was ignited by his tutoring experience, leading him to continue his impact in the classroom as a 2014 Miami-Dade corps member. Deontre continues to teach at his placement school.

He looks back on his AmeriCorps experience as a life-changing moment. “My experience was so profound, and I learned I wanted to be a mentor for our youth,” Deontre said.

An American flag with the text, "I am an AmeriCorp member, and I will get things done."

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.”

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.

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.

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