An Update from Kristen Bennett, CEO of Service Year Alliance on the Serve America Together Campaign:
Service Year Alliance launched the Serve America Together campaign during the 2020 presidential primary to urge the presidential candidates to help make national service part of growing up in America.
Against the backdrop of enormous challenges for our country — a global pandemic, overwhelming polarization and division, and an uncertain economic situation — the campaign won tremendous successes. Over a dozen presidential candidates were on the record in support of national service and four candidates released specific national service plans. We organized a base of support in the national security, workforce development, and civic renewal sectors during the general election, and built strong relationships with the Biden Administration during the transition that helped shape President Biden’s executive order calling for the creation of a Civilian Climate Corps.
In the first 100 days of the Biden Administration, we released our white paper, “Reimagining National Service: A Roadmap to the Service Presidency,” and called on President Biden to become the Service President. He answered our call with a record-setting $1 billion investment in AmeriCorps in the American Rescue Plan — the largest investment in national service in decades. The Administration also launched Public Health AmeriCorps, designed, in part, as a response to our proposals for an interagency corps to bolster covid response and recovery. The campaign was even endorsed by the New York Times in May 2021!
More recently, the Biden Administration launched the National Partnership for Student Success to support student success through service and volunteerism. The campaign shaped and influenced the proposed 300,000 member Civilian Climate Corps, which was centered in AmeriCorps and included in the House-passed Build Back Better Act. The proposed CCC reflected the campaign’s five principles for universal national service and called for raising the living allowance for all AmeriCorps members.
While the CCC proposal was not ultimately included in Congress’ reconciliation package, our work has set the stage for both the continued expansion of climate-related national service and significant improvements to corps member benefits. Alongside our partners in the national service field, we have built a cross-sector Partnership for Civilian Climate Corps of 100 cross sector organizations who support our vision for the CCC and long-term national service expansion.
While the campaign has been quieter for most of 2022, the work has continued and grown. This summer, Service Year Alliance launched our new strategic plan and announced new leadership. And in September, at the White House’s United We Stand Summit on combating hate and division, President Biden called for a new era of national service and an increased living allowance for all AmeriCorps members — a huge step forward for the campaign’s vision to make national service part of growing up in America. (Watch the clip here!)
As part of our organization’s new strategic direction, and ahead of the upcoming midterms when we expect the political winds to shift, we are winding down the Serve America Together campaign. It was always intended to be a time-bound effort to inform the next President’s priorities, and we’ve reached the outer bounds of that timeframe. But our vision to make national service part of growing up in America is not lost. In fact, Service Year Alliance as an organization has adopted the campaign’s vision as our organization’s overall vision — it’s what our team wakes up every morning working to make a reality.
We will continue to build upon the campaign’s principles in our new strategy and in everything we do going forward, and we are fortunate to have the support of our campaign’s co-chairs and coalition members to continue this important work.
Service Year Alliance is renewing our commitment to engaging with bipartisan leaders across industries to advance this new era for national service and ensure it is poised for long-term expansion so that every young person in America — no matter their background — has the opportunity to serve.
We’ve published our vision for this new era of national service, and have centered our new strategy around this vision.
We are grateful for your support, and look forward to working in partnership with you to make national service part of growing up in America.