New Toolkit Highlights How Governors Are Using Service Years to Meet State Needs

At the National Governors Association winter meeting, General Stanley McChrystal presented an exciting new resource on behalf of America’s Service Commissions, Service Year Alliance, and the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS). The theme: expanding service in states!

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The Expanding Service Years in States Toolkit highlights ways in which governors, state legislators, and other elected officials can embrace service years as a strategy to address the needs of their communities.

The toolkit outlines ways in which governors and other elected officials have already leveraged federal as well as state, local, and private resources to expand paid, full-time service opportunities, known as “service years.”  Through service year programs like AmeriCorps, Peace Corps, and YouthBuild, young adults are gaining essential workforce and leadership skills as they tackle pressing problems in their communities.

As a joint effort between ASC, Service Year Alliance, and CNCS, we hope this toolkit will serve as an inspiration and guide for state leaders to expand service year opportunities through diverse funding sources to meet pressing economic and social needs.

“At a time of social need and fiscal constraint, governors are increasingly turning to AmeriCorps and other service year programs as a smart, cost-effective strategy to address challenges in their states,” said Kim Mansaray, Acting CEO of the Corporation for National and Community Service. “As the federal agency for service and volunteering, CNCS is pleased to join Service Year Alliance and America’s Service Commissions to share the many creative ways governors are using service years to improve lives and communities.”

In the words of ASC CEO Kaira Esgate, “Over the course of the past 20 years, state service commissions have partnered with governors and other elected officials to demonstrate that service is a cost-effective strategy to address both emerging and persistent community needs in education, health and human needs, public safety, disaster preparedness and response, as well as environmental stewardship. Through the creation of service years via programs such as AmeriCorps, elected officials and state service commissions provide real-life educational and professional development opportunities for the next generation of leaders in their states.”

The examples shared in this toolkit serve as concrete examples of how elected officials, no matter what their political affiliation, have advanced service strategies in partnership with their state service commissions. ASC is pleased to join the Service Year Alliance and CNCS in highlighting the work of state service commissions to expand service years so that every young person who wishes to do so has the opportunity to serve in a meaningful and impactful manner.

“States have long played a leadership role in national service for good reasons,” notes Shirley Sagawa, President & CEO of Service Year Alliance. “Despite decades of success, national service remains an underutilized strategy. This document offers examples of ways that governors and other state leaders have innovated through service, tapping a variety of funding streams to make a service year experience a powerful option for young adults in their states.”

Download and view the full toolkit here.


Returning Peace Corps volunteers serve rural Illinois communities

color_wiu copy The Peace Corps Fellows Program is a pre-professional corps of rural community and economic developers. The program recruits recently returned Peace Corps volunteers (RPCVs) into a two-year graduate program at Western Illinois University (WIU). Fellows receive specialized training in community and economic development during the first year in the program, in order to prepare them for an eleven-month, community-based internship and full-time AmeriCorps assignment in the second year of the program.

During their AmeriCorps service, Fellows lead community and economic development projects and are responsible for mobilizing local volunteers to assist with the implementation of projects such as: downtown revitalization, business retention and expansion, entrepreneurship development, tourism development, community housing, health education and outreach, volunteer management, and organizational capacity building.

“Peace Corps Fellows are very resourceful.  They are used to working with limited resources and instruction.  They require little management and have a very strong work ethic and proven desire to make a difference. [Our AC member] was well prepared to develop, implement, evaluate and modify our colleague wellness program.”

– Kim Luz, St. John’s Hospital. 

This program builds on the Peace Corps model by recruiting returned Peace Corps volunteers (RPCVs) to serve AmeriCorps assignments in underserved, rural communities in Illinois. Generous financial and education packages are available to Members and academic credit is awarded for AmeriCorps service. Relevant professional development, in addition to academic preparation, is provided to Members throughout the service year.

The PCF program also allows host sites/rural communities to access individuals with unique skills, experiences, advanced training, and global perspectives. If not for this program, these communities would not likely attract or retain such individuals.

Read more on pg. 18 of the 2014 Edition of Transforming Communities Through Service.