Hi Reddit,   I’m Michael Smith. I serve as CEO of AmeriCorps, the federal agency for national service and volunteerism.   I am originally from Springfield, Massachusetts and I have dedicated my career to social justice and public service in underserved communities like those where I grew up.   I’ll start answering questions at 12 p.m. ET on Friday, January 13. I look forward to answering your questions and sharing more about volunteering opportunities on Martin Luther King, Jr. National Day of Service. MLK Day is the only federal holiday also designated as a day of service, and AmeriCorps has led this effort for the past quarter century.   You can find me here:   Twitter: @AmeriCorpsCEO   Site: www.americorps.gov

PROOF: https://i.redd.it/jt6dxx3juhba1.png

EDIT: Thank you for all your questions today! It was great to chat more about volunteering and service. To close out, I need to make a final plug: It’s not too late to make plans to volunteer for MLK Day. You can find volunteer opportunities in your community at Americorps.gov/MLKDay. And I hope it’ll inspire you to volunteer/serve all year long.

If you are interested in AmeriCorps service, please check out our Fit Finder to find the right opportunity for you: AmeriCorps.gov/FitFinder.

I would love to chat with you all again, so follow me on Twitter (@AmeriCorpsCEO) to stay up to date with me and find out when the next AMA is.

Comments: 34 • Responses: 13  • Date: 

Nodnal22 karma

How would you respond to the criticism that AmeriCorps exploits and undervalue young bodies/labor? I think for a long time the corps was a legitimate and worthwhile way to build skills and find an entry point for a career-- these days it often seems that the organizations taking AmeriCorps money and running programs are just interested in cheap labor to fund their non profit operations, and the members are catching on-- recruitment is way down, corps "wages" have stagnated while even the most basic of jobs is now paying $15/hr, the education award hasn't remotely kept up with the price of education...etc. etc. How is it a viable option for anyone that doesn't already come from wealth and can afford to essentially subsidize AmeriCorps by paying their own living expenses for a year?

AmeriCorpsCEO15 karma

Thank you for the candid question. We work hard everyday to ensure AmeriCorps service provides transformative benefit to the communities where we serve and for the AmeriCorps members themselves. That’s why our more than 1 million alumni tell us their service experience made such a difference in their lives. They saw the near-term impact of their work—helping to address urgent local needs defined by communities—and they saw how their experience gave them a head start and leg up in their career paths.

On my watch—and with full support from President Biden and the Biden Harris Administration—we have also made sure to take a serious look on member benefits. We’ve steadily raised the minimum living allowance, encouraged grantees and their partners to go above and beyond the minimum, and President Biden recently called on Congress to raise the minimum living allowance to $15/hour by 2025.

We have about 60,000 AmeriCorps members, but we also have about 140,000 AmeriCorps Seniors volunteers. Benefits vary quite a bit from program to program—some of these benefits include a living allowance or volunteer stipend, housing, supplemental health insurance, loan deferment, and childcare. And we also know there are benefits around skills training and growing professional networks. Over 40% of alumni who find a job w/in 6 months of service found that job through an AmeriCorps connection. And we know that AmeriCorps Seniors volunteers are healthier, less depressed, and less socially isolated than those who do not serve.

Beyond this effort, we’re sharpening our other benefits. The Segal Education Award is now set to match the Pell Grant. We offer childcare vouchers, loan forbearance, health care (in many programs), training and wrap around supports to help members go from a year of service to a lifetime of service.

I grew up in a low-income community and I know what it means to have the resources you need to be able to serve your community. That’s why making sure AmeriCorps service reflects the diversity of our country and the communities we serve is a personal priority and passion. We’re not where we need to be, but we have our first ever equity plan, strategic plan and road map that confronts these issues head on and will make sure we get to where we need to be.

mixedliquor11 karma

Has there been a noticeable trend, positive or negative, in volunteerism over the last 50 years?

I’d like to volunteer, but it seems like the working class has no time and it’s left to retirees and people with means to tolerate no income.

AmeriCorpsCEO10 karma

Yes on trends! I mentioned earlier that we publish findings every two years from our Volunteering and Civic Life in America Report – coming out this month. I don’t want to get ahead of data, but one thing is clear is that service and volunteering opportunities need to meet people where they are.

I think about this issue of barriers to service a lot. For example, we have 140,000 AmeriCorps Seniors volunteers who dedicate their time and talent, and we need to make sure they can afford the gas it takes to get to a volunteer opportunity. It’s something we’re working on closely with our colleagues in the Biden-Harris Administration, which has ensured an exponential increase in resources to expand benefits.

I’m also encouraged by the way volunteer and service programs were able to pivot during quarantines and lock downs in the earlier days of the pandemic. Some of the virtual opportunities we saw arise may be more accessible for people who have less time, and I’m optimistic that these will be part of the volunteering landscape going forward.

jcravens429 karma

Are you are following r/AmeriCorps and r/volunteer and r/communityservice?

AmeriCorpsCEO13 karma

I’m brand new to Reddit so just learning what communities exist around national service and volunteering. What other communities exist around service?

PeanutSalsa8 karma

What area of service receives the most volunteers on average? What area of service receives the least volunteers on average?

Or maybe, what areas are people most interested in helping with and which areas are people not? And does this pose any kinds of issues for your organization?

AmeriCorpsCEO6 karma

Every two years we publish our Volunteering and Civic Life in America report. The next report will be released this month, which will show how Americans came together during the pandemic.

AmeriCorpsCEO5 karma

One of the things our agency is excited about as we discuss COVID-19 recovery is the creation of Public Health AmeriCorps. AmeriCorps and the CDC joined forces to launch this program and support the recruitment, training, and development of the next generation of public health leaders. This program has opportunities in almost every state. Check it out: AmeriCorps.gov/PublicHealth

AmeriCorpsCEO6 karma

Our 2019 findings show that about a third of Americans volunteer with an organization on a regular basis, and that Utah had the highest volunteer rate with 50% of Americans volunteering through an organization. You can learn more here: Americorps.gov/newsroom/news/via

mikadams7 karma

Hi Michael!

Thanks for being here! I’m a mid-career journalist/podcaster and want to get into public service after years of “unbiased” or passive community work.

How does someone like me work with AmeriCorps to find a new career path? Or even us the skills I have in a new way?

AmeriCorpsCEO5 karma

Great question! Whether you are age18 or 80, we have opportunities for you no matter what your interest is and no matter where you live. If you are looking to make a career change you can think about our many options including mentoring students, being the first to respond when disaster strikes, helping families facing hunger, restoring public lands, or even rehabilitating affordable housing. More than 80% of members that complete service say that it was a defining professional experience. And a GREAT way to grow your network. There are over 600 Employers of National Service (that provide recruitment and retention benefits to AmeriCorps alums. Check out our Fit Finder to see what’s right for you! AmeriCorps.gov/FitFinder

Gen-Ross3 karma

Hi Michael,

Returned Peace Corps Volunteer here.

My girlfriend just finished up serving a term with Americorps and mostly really enjoyed her service! Her cohort lead and her supervisors were worried about low applicant numbers for the coming year. Some folks were attributing this to generational differences and eagerness/willingness to volunteer.

What trends in application counts have you seen and do you foresee for the coming years?

AmeriCorpsCEO5 karma

First, thanks to you and your girlfriend for serving! We love Peace Corps Volunteers, especially when we see so many serving as AmeriCorps members when they return home!

The last few years have been difficult for anyone recruiting anyone to serve or work – corporations, nonprofits, military. It’s forcing all of us to pay more attention to outreach and clearly articulate the benefits to serving. At AmeriCorps, the challenges in recent years have accelerated our efforts to raise the living allowance and think deeply about other wrap around benefits like housing, transportation and training. It’s also made us get smarter and sharper on recruitment and advertising. We have our first centralized recruitment team in more than a decade and are doing even more to reach potential members where they are - whether that’s traditional advertising or letting members take over our social media channels and share their stories any chance they get. Regardless, we have been thrilled to see robust interest from Americans of all generations in serving their country, and the great thing about AmeriCorps is we can quickly change with the needs of the community and the interest of those serving. For example, we helped more than 12 million people during the pandemic, and we have more than 15,000 AmeriCorps members working on disaster response and combatting the impacts of climate change.

BellaTricksHP3 karma

Why did you want to be the AmeriCorps CEO?

AmeriCorpsCEO6 karma

This work is personal for me. I grew up in an underserved community in Western Massachusetts raised by teen parents who did not have a lot of financial resources. But what we had was a community that took care of its kids and neighbors kids so we could dream big dreams despite the zip code where we were born. I met my first AmeriCorps members – VISTA and Foster Grandparents – at my local Boys & Girls Club. They served alongside nonprofit professionals and a host of other volunteers who were not looking to get rich or famous – but were looking to do whatever it took to make hope and opportunity possible for kids like me. So, serving as CEO AmeriCorps is a full circle moment for me to bring the full weight and resources of the federal government and many partners to support communities like mine – all across the country – that are leveraging the power of community and national service to transform lives and strengthen communities.

AmeriCorpsCEO4 karma

+ One of the things that gets me most excited about this work is National Days of Service, like MLK Day (this coming Monday Jan 16). MLK Day is the only federal holiday that is also a national day of service. Like Dr. King said: Everybody can be great because anybody can serve. And while it’s just day one day the calendar, we know that volunteering even one time...can spark a lifetime of giving back. You can find an opportunity to serve at Americorps.gov/MLKDay.

seeker_of_waldo2 karma

As a one-time Americorp member I've always felt that, while serving in the military is a great sacrifice, it is only one way citizens can be of service to our country. What can be done to better promote alternate ways to be of service, like Americorp?

AmeriCorpsCEO5 karma

Thank you for your service! We’re always looking to get the word out about AmeriCorps, and that’s part of the reason I’m on Reddit today to promote AmeriCorps and MLK Day of Service.

When you do serve or volunteer, please bring a friend, bring your child, bring your grandparents. Volunteering even just one time can spark a lifetime commitment to service. Please visit AmeriCorps.gov/MLKDay to learn more and find an opportunity to serve.

AmeriCorpsCEO4 karma

+ I will also say, national service programs are proud to have the dual honor of both serving our veterans and military families—and serving beside them. We are grateful to the more than 15,000 veterans who do currently serve as AmeriCorps members and volunteers and make AmeriCorps service their second act. I recommend this report from the National Commission on Military, National, and Public Service, which outlines ways that we can do even more to show the connections between and the importance of all types of service to the country: https://www.volckeralliance.org/sites/default/files/attachments/Final%20Report%20-%20National%20Commission.pdf

randomaltname1 karma

What a year you've had; you finally got over the hump and won your first PDC major and then at the Ally Pally you nailed a 9-darter against MVG in the greatest leg of all-time on your way to securing your first World Championship. How do you feel after accomplishing all that?

AmeriCorpsCEO5 karma

There are a lot of Michael Smiths... that one isn’t me, but it sounds like they had a great season!