At First Intimated, but Then Excited

Posted by Zach Maurin on September 19, 2011

Guest post by ServeNext Intern and AmeriCorps alumnus, Cristina Pardo:

On September 15, supporters representing national service programs, state commissions, and service learning organizations gathered from all over the country in Washington, DC for the Voices for National Service Hill Day.  Groups met with their  Senators and Representatives  to discuss the importance of investing federal dollars in the Corporation for National and Community Service to support programs like AmeriCorps, VISTA, NCCC, and Senior Corps that are effectively meeting America’s needs and creating jobs in a cost-effective way.

As a ServeNext intern and Literacy AmeriCorps Palm Beach County alum, I was offered the opportunity to join members of Voices for National Service from Florida to meet with our state’s Representatives. Having no real experience in politics to speak of, I was a little intimidated by thought of meeting with Members of Congress to discuss such a critical issue. Most of my knowledge of service programs came from my own experiences as an AmeriCorps member – not from any participation in advocacy or policymaking.

What I quickly learned, though, was that my personal experience as an AmeriCorps member was something that my Senators and Representatives  were interested in hearing.  I told them about my program’s successes in improving literacy rates in Palm Beach County, the professional development opportunities I gained in my service year that eventually landed me my first job, and the Segal Education Award funds that helped pay for graduate school.

I was surprised at how effective sharing the impact of being an AmeriCorps member was in conveying the importance of CNCS funding in the meetings.  A few of the Representatives’ staff members expressed interest in visiting AmeriCorps sites in their districts to see firsthand how service programs are impacting their constituents.  Meeting with Representative Allan West’s staff, who represents my district, was particularly interesting because going into the meeting it seemed unlikely that he would support federal investment in service programs.  By visiting his office, however, we learned that, in fact, his staff is intrigued and wants to learn more.  Without our visit and sharing stories of impact, this wouldn’t be possible.  I learned how critical it is for me, as an alum and proponent of these programs, to be active with our elected officials.

The Voices for National Service Hill Day was successful in letting legislators know how important service programs are to the communities they represent. Thanks to all the groups and individuals, including ServeNext, who came together to organize this event.

As an alum and supporter of service that is new to advocacy, I realize how important it is and how anyone can do it.  And everyone who cares must get involved in this big fight for funding.


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