Serve America Act—5 Years Later

By Anastasia Romanova, Program Specialist, NACHC-Community HealthCorps®

Five years ago, Senators Edward Kennedy (MA) and Orrin Hatch (UT) brought a compelling concept of expanding opportunities for Americans to serve their country through national service programs into realization with the Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act. Signed into law on April 21, 2009 by President Barack Obama, this legislation amended the National and Community Service Act of 1990 in an effort to put a new emphasis on the power and impact of national service as a solution to the nation’s most pressing social needs. Most notably, the act aimed to triple the amount of AmeriCorps members in service by 2017; it also raised the Eli Segal Education Award, created a Summer of Service program incentivizing 6th to 12th graders to serve their communities during the summer, and increased service opportunities for older Americans through Foster Grandparents and Senior Companions.

In celebration of yesterday’s fifth anniversary of this historic legislation, the White House released a letter from President Obama reaffirming the bill’s significance and continued impact:

“Whether assisting communities rebuilding after natural disasters, promoting health and well-being or preserving our precious natural resources, programs support by this law have improved countless lives and made America stronger.”

The President ended his reflection looking to the future, urging the nation to continue working towards Senator Kennedy’s original vision:

“As we mark this anniversary, let us recommit to fulfilling its promise and doing our part to create a brighter tomorrow.”

Echoing the president’s message of recommitment, the Corporation for National and Community Service released a brand new video urging more Americans to join AmeriCorps and get things done.

The Community HealthCorps® has grown alongside the national service movement. National Director, Jason Patnosh, comments on the Anniversary:

“The passage of the Serve America Act made me proud not only as a national service leader but as an American. Five years later, I can say it has made an impact—we have seen the belief in service as a solution spread across other federal agencies, identified innovative new models of social services delivery, and developed new methods to engage volunteers.

I can also say there is much still to do—the growth of AmeriCorps has been stagnant due to budget constraints. Growth is always challenging, and that is what this bill aims to achieve. So while there is still a lot of work to be done, I believe we’re on our way.”

Within the last five years, the rise in awareness and support for national service programs, like AmeriCorps and Senior Corps, can be attributed directly to the Serve America Act. As a result, more Americans choose to serve every year, creating new pathways to positive change and a stronger nation.

Posted in AmeriCorps, community healthcorps, Corporation for National and Community Service, Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act, national service, President Barack Obama, service, volunteer | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Forgotten Kid

By Grace Schierberl, Community HealthCorps® Member, East Boston Neighborhood Health Center

As a Community HealthCorps® Member with the East Boston Neighborhood Health Center (EBNHC), one of my service placements is with the Let’s Get Movin’ program. This program engages overweight and obese adolescents, age 8-11, in an afterschool lifestyle change program that promotes healthy eating, physical fitness and nutrition education. After six months of interacting closely with obese children, I have learned that a child’s fitness level is equally important as their self-perception, and, often, the two are directly related, as I saw with *Michael.

I first noticed Michael as he walked into the gym with a smooth confidence despite his young age and overweight physique. I called him over to discuss the program’s goal of getting healthier and stronger, a conversation quite typical for most kids on their first day at Let’s Get Movin’. Within seconds, I noticed that he was participating in the warm-up game. Most kids, shy and embarrassed about their bodies, cling to the coach’s side or try to remain as invisible as possible on the first day. But Michael isn’t most kids. A few minutes later, I brought Michael into a private room to complete a survey necessary for our program’s research. The last page of the survey asks a list of questions regarding a child’s self-perception and if they wish they were someone else. One of the questions asks if the child believes him or herself to be the type of kid that stands on the sidelines during a sport and watches or the type of kid who participates and plays to the fullest. I noticed Michael was struggling with this question and didn’t bubble in his answer with the ease that came so naturally with the other questions. He looked at me and asked, “I’m the type of kid who wants to play, but no one ever lets me. What should I put?” In an attempt to stay as emotionally neutral as possible, I instructed him to answer the question however he felt was most true. My heart sunk as I saw him bubble in that he sits on the sidelines.

Let’s Get Movin’ youth participants in action during this year’s basketball unit!

I was compelled to apply to be an AmeriCorps member with EBNHC’s Community HealthCorps® program because of my interest in public health and learning more about the risks associated with obesity. Throughout college, I had learned about hypertension, heart disease, type 2 diabetes and asthma in textbooks. But, after six months of service, I’ve realized obesity, especially for children, encompasses much more than a BMI on a medical chart. Being a 10-year-old is challenging, let alone being a 10-year-old with a serious weight problem. The majority of kids who participate in Let’s Get Movin’ have improved their fitness levels over the past few months; they can run more laps and hold a plank for twice as long. As incredible as that is, it is equally important to recognize the change in self-perception that directly correlates with an improved level of fitness. Let’s Get Movin’ is much more than a program dedicated to nutrition and fitness. This program provides a space where kids, who are often forgotten on the playground and bullied into not playing at recess, are thought of as teammates, as friends and as champions of change.

My experience working with this young, underserved population of overweight and obese children has shaped my perspective on public health and better prepared me to pursue a Masters in Public Health in the upcoming years. Inspired by Michael’s pursuit to improve his self-image, I now understand health not through the lens of statistics, but through names and experiences.

*Name changed for confidentiality.


Posted in AmeriCorps, Childhood Obesity Prevention, community healthcorps, East Boston Neighborhood Health Centers, Let's Get Movin', national service, service, volunteer | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Volunteers Make an Impact Every Day in Health Centers

By Jason Patnosh, National Director, Community HealthCorps & Associate Vice President, National Association of Community Health Centers (NACHC.)

Re-posted from the Blog page of the National Association of Community Health Centers (NACHC.)

Community Health Centers were built on the backs of volunteer community organizers and clinicians nearly 50 years ago.  Today, volunteers continue to play an important role in health centers across the country.  During the week of April 6-12, 2014 America celebrates National Volunteer Week.  At the National Association of Community Health Centers (NACHC), we also celebrate the thousands of volunteers who help health centers in three very important ways.

First, the majority of health center volunteers help health centers extend their services to the community.   They read to children in waiting rooms  or develop fundraising campaigns.  Their manpower is deeply appreciated.

Additionally, NACHC has been home to the Community HealthCorps, one of the largest AmeriCorps national service programs in the nation. Each year over 500 individuals provide a year of service in a Community Health Center and many of these AmeriCorps members help to recruit other volunteers for the health centers. In fact, over the last two years 14,404 volunteers were mobilized by AmeriCorps members. These volunteers served 81,484 hours for an estimated value of $1,786,830.[1]

Finally, all health center board members, a majority of whom are also patients of the health centers, are all volunteers and dedicate countless hours to ensure necessary medical and social services are provided to their fellow community residents. These board members commit to multiple years of service, travel to state and national conferences to represent their health center and serve as the voice for their health center in countless meetings with state and federal legislators.

NACHC is pleased to use this occasion to release a new resource: Community Health Center Volunteer Experiences. This one-pager will provided interested volunteers a brief background on Community Health Centers and how to seek a volunteer experience at a local health center.

While we recognize Volunteer Week we encourage you to thank your volunteers every day!

[1] Estimated value of volunteer time for 2012 is $22.14/hour

Posted in AmeriCorps, Community Health Centers, community healthcorps, NACHC, national service, National Volunteer Week, service, volunteer | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment