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My AmeriCorps Alums Day at the White House

August 29, 2012

I love this tweet.

I have been trying to find the words to capture the AmeriCorps Alums Day at the White House (#WHAmeriCorps), and I will below, but this tweet concisely frames what I felt coming out of the day.  Mr. Schwartz‘s observation reflects an image of the universal appeal of service at times of need.  Whether a retired volunteer who’s finding an encore career, or a young idealist who’s finding a way to ‘do-good’ in AmeriCorps, clearly the call to serve others can be universal AND unifying.  A plane full of Baby Boomers and Millennials landed in NOLA early Tuesday morning, ready to respond to disaster and support the individuals and communities along the Gulf Coast.  That’s a great ‘American portrait’ and more importantly reflects the American I want to live and lead in.

That’s why AmeriCorps Alums Day at the White House was so exciting, inspirational, and important.

First of all – look at how many Alums were there!  There are approximately 200 people in this picture.  We could have easily gotten 2000 RSVPs (or 20,000 or 200,000 – from the 775,000 alumni of AmeriCorps).  I loved the diversity of skills, interests, experiences, and backgrounds of those assembled.  Their AmeriCorps experiences and current careers included: Community Health Corps, Youth Build, Equal Justice Works, Reading Partners, Teach for America, Public Allies, City Year, America’s Promise, Hands On Network, NCCC, VISTA (including VISTAs pre-94), Citizen Schools, LISC, Corps Network, Habitat for Humanity, Jumpstart, Campus Compact, State Commissions & ASC, Rebuilding Together, First Focus, Notre Dame Mission Volunteers, Service Nation, Peace Corps, Military Veterans who were also AmeriCorps alumni, and a number of other state and national programs.

We also had AmeriCorps Alums Chapter leaders from at least 17 cities in attendance!

Just as much as the numbers were impressive, it was the stories that left an impression.  I vividly recall the stories shared by Jamiel, of Youth Build, and Allison, of Community Health Corps.  Two AmeriCorps Alums with different backgrounds and different stories of service and leadership, but sharing the common bond of being AmeriCorps Alums. Jamiel served in his own community with AmeriCorps, then was hired as a Youth Build staffer, and is now a Mayoral appointee on a civic commission in York, Penn. Allison served as a VISTA in the late-90s and rose in the health care field to her current role of Chief Operating Officer of a Health Center in New York State.  Amazing, divergent careers especially when taken together with the 12 Champions for Change – an Olympic fencer and a skeleton rider, two Corporate Social Responsibility leaders from name-brand corporations, a Google’r, a Mayor, a solar energy scientist, entrepreneurs and civic leaders.  Yet we were all joined in our bond of service, the common link of having served in AmeriCorps.

With the 12 AmeriCorps Alumni Champions of Change.

As I stated during my closing remarks – what we DID binds us together as alumni of AmeriCorps, but what we DO with experience, perspective, and know-how will be what defines us as AmeriCorps Alums.  The grit, hustle, teamwork and flexibility that was cultivated in service, has enabled AmeriCorps Alums, as individuals and a network, to be the leadership pipeline for the 21st century.  That same unifying and universal appeal of service, that we see in the call to serve on the Gulf Coast this week, is what I believe AmeriCorps Alums bring to their careers. We’ve served and led within diverse teams and in communities that are often not our own – and that provides a unique and valuable perspective from which we can lead and drive change in the future.

Thank you to everyone from the White House involved and to CNCS CEO Wendy Spencer and her team, for inviting AmeriCorps Alums to the White House for this special day.

I’m excited to think about where we’re going as an organization, where we can build off the momentum of such a special day.  I’m more excited to see 775,000 Americans at the vanguard of social change, and a future where service is the uniting force for good that we believe it can be.

Nice surprise to see AmeriCorps Alums ‘in lights’ at the White House

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