By Ashlyn Garry, Communications Projects Coordinator

By now, many of you know the story: Governor Bill Clinton of Arkansas accepted City Year’s invitation to learn more about our program while he was campaigning for President. So impressed was the candidate that he promised if elected he would make national service a priority. City Year corps member Stephen Spaloss (now one of our Regional Vice Presidents) gave Governor Clinton his City Year sweatshirt as a reminder of that promise. In an image that we instantly recall, there was President-Elect jogging in that City Year sweatshirt in the days after being elected. It was a sign of exciting things to come.

Once in office, President Clinton worked tirelessly with national service leaders and elected officials to make good on his promise, signing the National and Community Service Trust Act in 1993, which created the Corporations for National and Community Service and AmeriCorps. The first class of AmeriCorps members was sworn in on September 12, 1994. Since then, more than 900,000 Americans have dedicated upward of 1.2 billion hours of service to our communities as AmeriCorps members.

This year we celebrate the 20th anniversary of those first AmeriCorps pledges, as well as the invaluable support AmeriCorps provides to City Year and countless other national service programs. As alumni of City Year, and for many of you, as alumni of AmeriCorps, you have special opportunities to join in celebration of this anniversary.

A Lifetime of Service

AmeriCorps alumni are united in their love of service and in their determination to “get things done for America.” On September 12, 2014, you can join the newest class of AmeriCorps volunteers and retake the pledge to signify your commitment to a lifetime of service.

Lyndsay Whitehurst, who first served as a National Civilian Community Corps member in the Southwest region of AmeriCorps before serving with City Year Boston (2012-2013), said retaking the pledge is a reminder of what it means to truly be part of a community:

“Before our [NCCC] team was deployed on any of our projects, we would gather as a community of about 300 corps members and staff and we would recite the AmeriCorps pledge. When we began, I could no longer hear my voice because, like a choir, our voices joined together to speak as one triumphant and inspired team. [...] There were certain times in service and now in everyday life that can get tough and I feel lonely. In those times, I hear the voice of my teammates, my lifelong friends, my community saying, ‘faced with apathy, I will act...faced with adversity, I will persevere.’ I learned what it meant to be an engaged and responsible citizen and to see strangers as neighbors that I hadn't met yet.”

“There are countless acts of greatness, both large and small,” Whitehurst added, “that we have the opportunity to be a part of everyday. It's been three years since I first took the AmeriCorps pledge yet still the echo of those words challenge me to be the one that acts and to persevere despite the adversity we face.”

In Boston, you can join City Year Boston’s current corps at the Massachusetts Opening Day Ceremony at Tufts University's Gantcher Center—but others are taking place across the country

The Spirit of Service Never Fades

After recommitting yourself to a lifetime of service, join other alumni in pledging to perform 20 hours of service this year. This “20-20” commitment—one hour for every year of AmeriCorps—is an opportunity to reconnect with AmeriCorps and celebrate your dedication to service. Nicole Warder, who served from 2005-2007 before joining City Year Boston's staff, said AmeriCorps opened her eyes to the diversity and importance of leadership styles. “I’ve continued in my role because I have seen the impact of both our City Year AmeriCorps members and other AmeriCorps members across the Commonwealth, and the need for even more.” Our Service Day at Red Jacket Weekend is a great way to get started and spend time with other alumni.

Since their creation 20 years ago, AmeriCorps and the Corporation for National and Community Service have empowered hundreds of thousands of Americans in service—and over 18,000 of those alumni served through City Year. AmeriCorps has been a source of vital support to the national service movement, to our youth, and to our communities. Let’s recognize its tremendous contributions and celebrate twenty years of getting things done for America!

Other Ways to Get Involved in #AmeriCorps20?

You can help increase awareness of how the national service movement has created meaningful opportunities for America’s youth.

Photo Credit: AmeriCorps. President Clinton swearing in the first class of AmeriCorps members, 1994

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