Many young people today face a bleak choice upon graduation from high school. Some go to college, but college is not for everyone. Most of the rest must choose between low paying jobs in the service or gig economy, military enlistment, or a “career” in the illegal drug trade.
That is why Robert F. Kennedy Jr. is going to transform the existing Americorps program to offer a new option to young people who want to gain skills, step into adult responsibilities, and most of all, act on their altruism and desire to serve something larger than themselves.
Americorps, officially known as the National Civilian Community Corps, was founded in 1994 as a domestic version of the Peace Corps, which President John F. Kennedy established the in 1961. Today, the kind of service the Peace Corps has done in the world is needed urgently in our own country.
The existing Americorps is just a one-year program open only to college grads. The transformed Americorps will be open to all people 18 and older who want to make a four year commitment to service, in areas such as:
- Urban renewal
- Ecological restoration
- Care for the disabled, sick, and elderly
- Infrastructure repair
- Addiction recovery centers
- Organic agriculture
Each of these areas represents a huge unmet need for our country. For example, some estimate that 500,00-600,000 skilled workers are needed for infrastructure repair alone. There is plenty of meaningful work to be done to revitalize our country!
The expanded Americorps will develop relationships with other organizations such as trade unions and NGOs to ensure the labor and creativity of Americorps volunteers supports existing organizations.
Benefits to participants will be on a par with benefits to military veterans:
- All food, housing, medical care provided (as in military)
- Monthly stipend
- Assistance with college tuition, medical care, and mortgage upon finishing deployment
- Learn vocational skills
- Do meaningful work
- Bond with other young people who care
The expanded Americorps will offer an exciting and fulfilling path into adulthood for hundreds of thousands of young people. The requirements placed upon them will be challenging, rivaling the expectations of soldiers in the military, but they will leave the program capable, confident, and ready to continue contributing to society.
The expanded Americorps will also provide a transition zone for retiring military personnel who want to continue serving their country while learning economically useful civilian skills. The focus areas of the expanded Americorps coincide with high-demand professions, particularly in construction and repair. Americorps will give veterans a place to apply their leadership skills as supervisors and mentors while also developing skills suitable for civilian life. Their transition will symbolize that of our entire nation, as we become the world-inspiring example of peace that John F. Kennedy aspired to when he founded the original Peace Corps in 1961.