In his ambitious, policy-heavy speech to Congress and the nation, President Obama reiterated his plans to boost community service and bring volunteerism to the center of the national strategy to help families and communities weather the ongoing economic crisis, as well as make progress against some of our most enduring societal problems, such as tackling the dropout crisis, strengthening our schools and expanding economic opportunities for low-income individuals.
He also restated plans to ease the often burdensome cost of college by exchanging service hours for money towards financial aid.
Now, I know that the price of tuition is higher than ever, which is why if you are willing to volunteer in your neighborhood or give back to your community or serve your country, we will make sure that you can afford a higher education. And to encourage a renewed spirit of national service for this and future generations, I ask Congress to send me the bipartisan legislation that bears the name of Senator Orrin Hatch, as well as an American who has never stopped asking what he can do for his country -- Senator Edward Kennedy.
Obama was referring to the Serve America Act, co-authored by Senators Kennedy and Hatch, which was introduced in the Senate January 16 and would:
- Engage more Americans in a year of national service to solve problems by increasing AmeriCorps from 75,000 to 250,000
- Create additional opportunities for Americans of all ages to engage in community service
- Support innovation in the non-profit sector
- Improve and expand international service opportunities that help better connect America to the world
House leaders are building on the important conversations happening across the country on national service and volunteerism. On February 25, the House Education and Labor Committee will hold a hearing to examine the importance of national and community service in meeting critical economic needs across the country.
A recent survey reveals that teens have a leg up over adults in the service department: 56% of teens volunteer to support a charitable cause compared 46% of adults.