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...
...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...Read more
A big, bold Civilian Climate Corps (CCC), utilizing the power of national service, has the potential to address the critical issue of climate change while bringing young people together in common purpose. We are advocating for a $30 billion CCC that is equitable, engages diverse Americans, builds more resilient communities, and puts young people on pathways to good-paying climate jobs. Our vision is to make national service part of growing up in America. To achieve this, any investment in the CCC must increase the living allowance and benefits for all national service programs to ensure the opportunity to serve is accessible to all young people.
Status of the CCC
The House made a major $30 billion investment in the CCC in their reconciliation package last fall, which would have built a bold, dynamic CCC that fights fires and hurricanes, supports conservation efforts, reduces home energy costs, and improves community resilience. It would also have lifted the living stipend for all AmeriCorps programs, making national service an accessible opportunity for more young people. The Senate in their slimmed down legislation unfortunately left the CCC out of this summer’s Inflation Reduction Act. Service Year Alliance’s statement on that legislation is available here.
While the CCC funding we’ve been advocating for is not included in the Inflation Reduction Act, the package does include funding for an energy efficiency training program, environmental justice block grants, and additional investments in public lands, forests, and other conservation and mitigation projects that could potentially be used to support climate-related national service efforts. Service Year Alliance will continue to advocate for the expansion of climate resilience national service –and improvements to corps member benefits– through the Partnership for the Civilian Climate Corps, a national network of close to 100 multi-sector organizations pushing for robust investment in climate national service.
Americans Want a CCC that Utilizes National Service
A poll released in May 2022 found that 91% of youth — nearly all — care at least a little about climate change. But they’re in desperate need of answers for how they can help.
The same poll found that 72% of youth are very supportive of a proposed 300,000-member Civilian Climate Corps (CCC) that would mobilize diverse young people to tackle climate challenges through a year of paid national service and put them on pathways to good-paying jobs.
- 38% of young people say they would “strongly” or “maybe” consider joining the CCC.
Two-thirds (65%) of youth ages 18-28 are not sure what they can personally do to make a difference and protect the environment.
- 45% of young people say they would consider doing a service year.
Principles for a Big, Bold Civilian Climate Corps
National service is a tool that can engage hundreds of thousands of Americans in addressing climate change, while serving their country, and building skills necessary for high-demand climate jobs. We need to build a CCC from a place of strength, incorporate new benefits to meet the challenges our nation is facing, and engage a diverse group of rural and urban youth all while maintaining a locally driven approach that is responsive to local needs and provides pathways to growing, and good paying, careers.
The following principles are critical in the development of a new Civilian Climate Corps:
Principle 1: Develop a Unique Identity for the CCC and Maintain an Ethos of Service to Country
Principle 2: Ensure Corps Members are Paid a Living Wage, Develop In-Demand Work Skills on a Path to a Career, and Gain Education Benefits
- Principle 3: Ensure a Diverse Group of Local Corps Members, Community Organizations, and Staff
- Principle 4: Prioritize Local Communities and Build Community
- Principle 5: Target Projects to Address Local and State Needs and Historic Inequities
- Principle 6: Build on the Existing Federal, State, Local National Service System
Principle 7: Utilize Existing Expertise at the Federal, State, and Local Level to Oversee the CCC
- Principle 8: Distribute CCC Funding through Federal, State, and Local Partnerships that Provide for Full Project Costs
Read more about these CCC principles and our corresponding policy recommendations in our joint proposal for the CCC with America's Service Commissions.
Congressional Support for the CCC
Service Year Alliance submitted testimonies with ASC based on our shared vision for the CCC to the Bicameral Senate Climate Change Task Force discussion on Civilian Climate Corps proposals and the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests, and Public Lands Hearing Examining the Potential for a Civilian Climate Corps.
We are also fortunate to have the support of members of Congress — led by Rep. Neguse (D-CO), Senators Chris Coons (D-DE), Ed Markey (D-MA), Ron Wyden (D-OR), and Representatives Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), Judy Chu (D-CA), Marcy Kaptur (D-OH), and Bobby Rush (D-IL) and supported by Senator Schumer (D-NY) and others — calling for many of the same principles for the CCC that we submitted to congressional committees and task forces.
Most recently, 70 US House Members — led by Reps. Ocasio-Cortez, Neguse, Chu, Kaptur, and Rush — and signed by 20 members of the Congressional Black Caucus, 10 members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, 13 members of the New Democrat Coalition, and 8 members of the House Committee on Education and Labor sent a second Dear Colleague letter to Speaker Pelosi on September 21st. The letter specifically calls for $30B for the CCC as well as for a flagship AmeriCorps program that is critical to this effort.
Over 120 Labor, Conservation, Youth, National Service, and Racial, Economic, and Climate Justice Organizations Call on Congress to Pass $30B Civilian Climate Corps
We were proud to join 120+ organizations in calling on Senator Schumer and Speaker Pelosi to invest $30B in a CCC. Congress has the opportunity to mobilize a generation of young people to serve their communities and tackle the climate crisis while developing the skills they need to succeed in a 21st century economy through the CCC.
The letter brings together conservation, labor, youth, and national service organizations as well as racial, economic, and climate justice movements in support of the CCC.
"The Civilian Climate Corps is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to put young people into national service to help fight climate change while putting them on pathways to good-paying jobs,” said Kristen Bennett, Chief Strategy Officer at Service Year Alliance.
Service Year Alliance & Sunrise Movement in the New York Daily News: "Enlist young Americans in the fight to stop climate change"
"A modern-day CCC — one that engages diverse Americans, prioritizes resources in underserved communities and puts youth on pathways to jobs and successful futures — can mobilize a generation of young people in the highest-stakes fight of our age. By developing today’s CCC as an interagency program built upon the existing AmeriCorps infrastructure, this idea could become reality quickly and cost-effectively."
For questions about the Civilian Climate Corps, please contact Aly Ferguson at [email protected].
Joe Biden: The Service President
The Serve America Together campaign is issuing a new call to President Biden to “build back better” as the Service President.
National service has the potential to transform how we address the biggest challenges of our time. It can bolster pandemic response and preparedness, put Americans on a pathway to work, address our climate crisis by harnessing the energy of the next generation, and help foster civic renewal.
As part of our Serve America Together campaign to make national service a part of growing up in America, we have set our sights on an ambitious vision for national service — one that strengthens service in America so that every young person, regardless of background, has the opportunity to serve. This vision has the potential to become reality if spearheaded by leadership in the White House.
As a lifelong public servant and advocate for service in all its forms, President Biden has an opportunity to make a bold investment in national service as a solution to today’s convergent crises.
The Biden Administration has identified COVID, climate change, racial justice, and economic inequality as its top priorities. And the Biden campaign focused on restoring the soul of the nation. National service is uniquely positioned to help him meet all of these goals at once while building off the principles and ideals that have shaped President Biden’s own career.
President Biden should call young people across the nation into national service to support our country’s unmet needs — all while addressing his Administration's top priorities.
Prioritizing national service in the Biden Administration means:
- Expanding national service positions, including to 250,000 AmeriCorps positions a year, up from 75,000 a year today, and 10,000 Peace Corps positions, and progress toward an ultimate goal of one million;
- Flooding the nonprofit sector and communities with critical support through a Service Year Fellowship and the creation of on-ramps for new programs;
- Leading a whole-of-government effort to put Americans into national service to meet our country’s urgent needs, including elevating service in the White House by creating a National Service Advisor and service corps within and between departments and federal agencies;
- Launching an awareness campaign and an online portal to connect people to military, national, and public service opportunities;
- Making national service positions accessible to youth of all races, ethnicities, and income levels by increasing stipends and benefits and eliminating barriers for groups working with opportunity youth; and
- Setting young people up for success by ensuring workforce development is integrated into national service programs.
This is a pivotal moment for America and for our movement. The Serve America Together campaign is issuing this call to President Biden to become the Service President to ensure that this unprecedented moment in our history is met with a bold idea that meets the moment.
With President Biden’s leadership, national service has the potential to transform our nation, our young people, and our democracy. He has the chance to make national service the cornerstone of his legacy and become the Service President.
The New York Times Endorses National Service for All Young Americans
The New York Times editorial board endorsed national service for all young Americans, citing our Serve America Together campaign and saying that President Biden has the opportunity to make universal national service a reality. Their call to national service even made it into the Sunday print edition!
“Asking young Americans for a year of their time for their country would be a powerful way to inculcate that call to service. It would not be a panacea for America’s troubles, of course. But a year in which barriers of race, class and income were breached, working in areas like underresourced schools, national parks or the military, where the fruits of service were real and beneficial, could help restore a measure of the community, commitment and hope that America cries out for.” - The New York Times
A Roadmap to a Service Presidency
In April 2021, Service Year Alliance released a white paper entitled, "Reimagining National Service: A Roadmap to a Service Presidency." The paper offers a roadmap for how President Biden can reimagine national service to meet his Administration’s priorities. It highlights opportunities for expanding national service, outlines the gaps, and offers solutions to improve and expand upon the existing national service infrastructure. It offers six steps that would allow President Biden to make national service a foundational part of his Administration building off the principles and ideals that have shaped his career.
Brookings Institution + Service Year Alliance Event: Reimagining National Service
Following the release of the white paper, Service Year Alliance hosted an event with the Brookings Institution on May 4, 2021. The event "Reimagining National Service" focused on how national service is currently helping the country “build back better” and how we might reimagine national service in America to meet our nation’s top priorities — including COVID response and recovery, workforce development, climate change and infrastructure, racial justice, and healing a divided nation. The event featured remarks from Gen. John Allen, Serve America Together co-chair Wes Moore, and Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI).
The event included a presentation from Service Year Alliance's CEO Jesse Colvin who outlined our "Roadmap to a Service Presidency" and walked step-by-step through our white paper.
Two terrific panels also took place — one featuring national service leaders and the other made up of Brookings fellows and policy experts — who discussed their visions for national service and our roadmap to a service presidency. Watch the full event here:
Serve America Together is challenging all 2020 presidential candidates to commit to make national service a priority in their first 100 days in office and to release bold plans to expand and transform national service in America.
Over a dozen leading military and civilian service organizations join campaign co-chairs Gen. Stan McChrystal, Arianna Huffington, Andrew Hauptman, former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, and Laura Lauder to call on the candidates to prioritize national service.
“We are calling on 2020 presidential candidates to come up with bold new ways that young people can Serve America Together,” said (Ret.) General Stan McChrystal, Chairperson of Service Year Alliance. “As we head into an election year, it is clear that young Americans won’t settle for rhetoric. They are turning to our future leaders for real answers to our most pressing problems. We believe that national service can be a pathway to a more equal, more united, and more civically engaged country, and we are enthusiastic about challenging every 2020 presidential candidate to bring national service opportunities to scale.”
Candidates that have accepted the Serve America Together Presidential Challenge:
* No longer in the race.
As the 2020 presidential election heats up, candidates are calling for national service on the campaign trail. From bridging divides to making college more affordable, presidential candidates are recognizing the benefits of expanding opportunities for young Americans to serve.
Pete Buttigieg has called for national service while on the campaign trail — both on MSNBC's Rachel Maddow Show and on MSNBC's Morning Joe. He has said, "We really want to talk about the threat to social cohesion that helps characterize this presidency but also just this era. One thing we could do that would change that would be to make it, if not legally obligatory, but certainly a social norm that anybody after they're 18 spends a year in national service."
Rep. John Delaney
John Delaney's national service policy proposal expands national service programs in the US so that each high school graduate can participate in national service through military service, community service — including AmeriCorps and Peace Corps — infrastructure apprenticeships, and a new climate corps.
Kirsten Gillibrand released her national public service policy proposal in a FOX News op-ed stating, "My agenda for national public service would provide a pathway to the middle class for all Americans and would ensure that those who dedicate themselves to their communities are rewarded for their efforts."
Gov. John Hickenlooper
Gov. Jay Inslee
Jay Inslee has called for the creation of a Climate Conservation Corps to combat climate change saying, "It is time to face an urgent crisis with the spirit of public service that is deeply embedded in our American tradition. That is why today I am calling for the creation of a Climate Conservation Corps (or “Climate Corps”) that will help mobilize the American people to rise to the defining challenge of our time: defeating climate change."
Sen. Amy Klobuchar
Amy Klobuchar released her national service policy to create more opportunities for all Americans to serve their country and their community. Her plan calls for investing in AmeriCorps, a Climate Civilian Conservation Corps, and the Peace Corps; creating a part-time volunteer national service program; and fixing and expanding the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program. To pay for these investments, Senator Klobuchar says she will pass bipartisan legislation that she has introduced in the Senate to reduce single use drug waste.
Rep. Seth Moulton
Seth Moulton released a national service policy proposal that expands on national service programs in the U.S. to reach 33.4 million young people ages 17-24. He calls for the creation of a Federal Green Corps to focus on climate change and wants to rename the current Corporation for National and Community Service as the "National and Community Service Administration" and make the head of the agency a cabinet level position.
Tom Steyer has committed to making national service a priority within the first 100 days of his administration. His national service plan includes a $50 billion investment to address challenges in public health, conservation, aging, and other areas, as well as growing the number of service year positions to 1 million annually within five years. The proposal also includes an increase to living stipends and education awards for those who serve.
Elizabeth Warren's Public Lands policy proposal calls for the creation of a “21st Century Civilian Conservation Corps” staffed by 10,000 young people.
Marianne Williamson released a national service policy proposal saying, "[National service] would remind all of us that we have a stake in America and that what happens here is bigger than any one individual’s gratification or success. It would help create a sense of responsibility to the country, and to the world, that should accompany every person’s growth into adulthood."
”Every adult in America should have the opportunity to serve our country beginning when they are 17 or 18 years old and the programs should be compelling enough that service will become an expectation of most young Americans.”
On January 10, 2020, Governor Deval Patrick announced his Democracy Agenda, which includes his plan to achieve universal national service by 2030. His plan sets the US on a path for universal national service by 2030, by providing opportunities for every American to serve starting when they are 17 or 18 years old, and rewards service with tuition vouchers for two years of tuition for every year of service, up to the price of public, in-state tuition.
Our country is at a crossroads. Americans are more polarized than at any other moment in history. Communities across the country face significant unmet challenges including education inequity, disaster relief, aging populations, and substance abuse issues.
Serve America Together imagines a future in which young people earn college tuition by addressing our communities’ greatest challenges — where they are empowered to shape their own destinies regardless of zip code. We imagine a future in which empathy trumps apathy and participation and problem-solving outmatch indifference. We imagine a shared experience far stronger than anything that may seek to divide us.
Your support can make that future possible.
Service Year Alliance is organizing an unprecedented coalition led by civilian and military service organizations to bring this vision to life. We are laying the groundwork with presidential candidates, Congress, and thought leaders, ensuring that they champion the issue. And we are empowering communities across the country to lead the way.
All donors who give $1,000 or more will join our Founder’s Circle. This group will be invited to insider conference call updates on the Serve America Together campaign, receive communications from General Stan McChrystal and our campaign co-chairs, and more. Every single contribution is critical to this campaign.
Donate now to help achieve this future. Let’s work together to make national service part of growing up in America.