2014-09-12

Guest blog by Emily Haber, CEO of the Massachusetts Service Alliance

Today marks the 20th anniversary of the “first AmeriCorps boots on the ground.” Massachusetts has been there with AmeriCorps every step of the way. From the first swearing-in ceremony on the Boston Common on September 12, 1994 to today when over 3,000 AmeriCorps members serve every day in communities throughout the Commonwealth. As the “birthplace of national service” Massachusetts has much to celebrate and recognize in the last 20 years.

The number of civic-minded young men and women nationwide who give up a year of their life for a modest stipend and post-service education award will soon reach one million strong. Massachusetts has put 27,000 of those members into communities over the past 20 years, making sure every child in Massachusetts has an opportunity to thrive in school, that new immigrants and refugees receive the support they need to succeed in their adopted country, and that our low-income neighbors who hover in the dark shadows of poverty, poor nutrition, illiteracy, and substance abuse get the assistance they need to step out of that shadow.

Our AmeriCorps members are tackling the most stubborn problems in our communities and have stepped into roles that few others would accept while making a lasting difference in the lives of those they serve. In many cases, they extend their service beyond one year or accept a career position in a community organization that is tackling these issues on the ground in the communities in which these problems persist.

They are young women like Carro Hua, who grew up in Dorchester and benefitted as a teenager from the mentoring of three AmeriCorps members whose commitment to her success got her to Smith College. She is now paying that debt forward, serving at a Vietnamese American community program as a Massachusetts Promise Fellow teaching teenagers the same skills that helped put her on the path to success.

They are young men like Travis Wyatt Harris, a 26-year-old member who spent his year of service in Lynn tutoring Spanish-speaking residents in written and spoken English skills that will help them secure employment or read to their own children.

And they are young men like Richard, who came into Tenacity in Boston at age 10 to learn the structure of tennis instruction while gaining higher literacy skills. As a Tenacity AmeriCorps member he is now teaching those very same skills to youths struggling as he once did before he found his footing and went on to graduate from UMASS Amherst.

These members and all of the ones who served before them make us proud of our 20 year AmeriCorps legacy in Massachusetts. We look forward to watching the legacy continue and grow as the next generations of young leaders answer the call to national service.

About the author: Emily Haber is the CEO of the Massachusetts Service Alliance, which administers the AmeriCorps program in Massachusetts. 

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