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AmeriCorps in crisis

Posted: Thursday, June 19, 2003

The AmeriCorps national service program is in crisis. AmeriCorps is the program in which people dedicate a year or more of service in exchange for a modest living stipend and education award. Alaska has more than 250 AmeriCorps members serving in schools, agencies and organizations in rural and urban Alaska communities addressing community needs in the areas of public safety, education, human needs and the environment.

AmeriCorps programs in Alaska have been informed that none of our programs received funding for the fiscal year starting July 1.

There will be zero AmeriCorps members in Alaska. This will have devastating effects on Alaska communities, agencies and individuals.

As an AmeriCorps alumnus and a staff member for an organization that hires about 50 AmeriCorps volunteers a year, this action deeply saddens me. Thousands of potential AmeriCorps members will not be able to serve and many programs will not be able to function.

Since 1994, AmeriCorps members in Alaska have tutored and mentored youth; built and maintained trails and roads; helped people earn their GED; built houses for families in need; created recycling programs and much more. AmeriCorps in Alaska provides opportunities for people to give back to their community while bettering themselves.

For the Southeast Alaska Guidance Association (SAGA), an AmeriCorps funded agency, this action is detrimental to all of its programs. SAGA enrolls AmeriCorps members to serve in the Serve Alaska Youth Corps, Young Alaskans Building Affordable Housing, and Rural Outreach Prevention Education Programs. These programs would not survive without them.

If this decision is not overturned:

• SAGA and other agencies face uncertainty.

• More than 20 full-time jobs in Alaska will be lost.

• Potential AmeriCorps members will have to find alternative plans.

• Vital service projects around the state will not be completed.

My AmeriCorps experience changed my life. I had just graduated from college, unsure of what I was going to do next. I found out about AmeriCorps, applied and in a few months I was serving as a leader, role-model, and mentor to Alaska youth. Now my job is to encourage citizens to do the same. To think that others would not be able to take this opportunity to give back to their community and share resources is shocking and distressing.

AmeriCorps is important to Alaska, the United States, and me. President Bush put out a call to service in his State of the Union address in January where he called for an increase in the number of AmeriCorps members. Instead, programs are being drastically cut nationwide.

Please state any concerns to your elected officials. For more information visit cns.gov.

Jenni Lefing

Juneau



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