Thursday, March 19, 2009

The Serve America Act

Back in September I wrote a post about public service and the election. In it I mentioned a bill that Edward Kennedy had introduced in the Senate called the "Serve America Act", which aims to expand and improve opportunities for public service. Since this bill has the potential to benefit tutor/mentor programs and other organizations making a difference, I think it's important to examine the meat and potatoes of the bill. According to, if made law, the bill will:

+Create a "Youth Engagement Zones to Strengthen Communities program which will provide grants for partnerships between local educational agencies that serve high-need, low-income communities and community-based or state entities to engage students and out-of-school youth in service-learning addressing specific challenges faced by their communities

+Create a Campus of Service program, which will annually grant up to 30 Universities with exemplary service-learning programs the funds to assist their students' pursuit of public service careers

+Direct the Corporation for National and Community Service to contract for a 10-year, longitudinal service-learning impact study.

+Establish the Commission on Cross-Sector Solutions to America's Problems to study ways in which the federal government and businesses can more effectively collaborate with nonprofit and philanthropic organizations to address pressing national and local challenges.
+Create a Community Solutions Funds Pilot program awarding competitive matching grants to grantmaking institutions or partnerships between such institutions and state or local governmental entities which will use the grants to provide competitive matching subgrants to community organizations for use in replicating or expanding proven solutions to specifically identified community challenges.

+Establish an "Innovation Fellowships Pilot Program" that will award competitive grants to individuals who have completed at least one period of national service, to establish innovative nonprofit organizations that address national and local challenges.

+Create a ServeAmerica Corps program that will award competitive grants to states and nonprofit organizations to fund national service in low-income communities by founding an:

--Education Corps that improve certain education indicators, including student engagement, achievement, and graduation

--Healthy Futures Corps that improve certain health indicators, including health care access; -- Opportunity Corps that improve certain opportunity indicators, including financial literacy and access to housing, and employment-related services

-- Encore programs designed to take advantage of the skills of participants age 50 and older. Creates additional incentives for national service participation by individuals age 50 and older.

+Establish the ServeAmerica and Encore Fellowships program providing ServeAmerica Fellowships to university-nominated individuals and Encore Fellowships to individuals age 50 or older who agree to be placed with nonprofit organizations to carry out projects in specified areas of national need.

+Creates a Volunteer Generation Fund program awarding competitive matching grants to states and nonprofit organizations to increase the availability and capacity of volunteers to address state priorities with regard to areas of national need or work with nonprofit civic entities, including faith-based organizations, to address such needs.

+Ensures the commencement of a nationwide Call to Service Campaign.

+Requires the Office of Volunteers for Prosperity (VfP) of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to implement a VfPServe program providing skilled professionals with fixed-amount stipends to offset their costs of volunteering abroad to address specified VfP objectives aimed at ameliorating living conditions in developing countries.

This is some really good stuff! As you can see, Cabrini Connections, The Tutor/Mentor Connection potentially has a lot to gain from the passage of this bill, from increased availabilty of funding and volunteers for Cabrini Connections, to increased government support for some of the ideas that I've been discussing on this blog and on Unfortunately, despite getting press in such high profile publications as the New York Times, the bill is currently stuck in the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions with only 17 co-sponsors. The co-sponsors are as follows:

Therefore, if your senator isn't on there, give their office a ring and ask them why the heck they haven't come out in full support! You can find their contact info here.

Considering that the federal govt has already SPENT NEARLY 5 TRILLION DOLLARS BAILING OUT BANKS AND LARGE CORPORATIONS, don't you think it's time to put a little of our taxpayer money to good use?

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