National Service and Summer Learning
Last Updated: December 16, 2015
The Corporation for National and Community Service programs, including the AmeriCorps VISTA Summer Associates, engage members in direct service and capacity-building to address critical community needs. Each summer, AmeriCorps places thousands of volunteers into summer programs serving low-performing students, having a profound impact on communities that are taking aim at combating summer learning loss. AmeriCorps members help drive sustainability of summer programs too: expanding services, mobilizing volunteers, building capacity, raising funds, developing new partnerships, and creating innovative, sustainable programs that last long beyond their service time.
In 2014, AmeriCorps VISTA placed 7,782 AmeriCorps VISTA members (including 1,944 Summer Associates), in more than 4,000 organizations across the country.*
There are many examples of how summer volunteers impact communities nationwide, both large and small. According to the 2008 report “Brief Encounters, Lifelong Inspiration ” on the Summer Associates program:
- In the aftermath of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, 134 Summer Associates placed in 16 New Orleans agencies provided 28,500 hours of service, reaching 7,125 youth with summer programs that offered academics, art, music, recreation, and field trips. As the report describes the impact:
“The infusion of Summer Associates enabled many of the 16 agencies to serve more children and youth. Summer camps were extended by three weeks, student achievement was enhanced, and agencies developed better relationships with the children and families being served” (p. 12).
- Since the late 1990’s, Americorp VISTA and Summer Associates have led summer recreational and education activities for youth living in homelessness and emergency shelters in Trenton, New Jersey. Providing tutoring, computer training, and recreation outings, these volunteers “broadened the horizons of many children who have spent their entire lives in the city limits of Trenton” (p. 16).
- 7 Summer Associates provided summer recreation, learning, and meals for 88 students in Mendota, California, one of the poorest communities in the state. Though small, “without the Summer Associate program, they would not have been able to have a summer program for the youth” (p. 6).
Students receiving services are not the only ones impacted by service programs. The Summer Associates themselves find the experience expands and deepens their knowledge of core social issues and their commitment to finding new solutions. As the report describes:
“[After working with children living in poverty] Summer Associates will bring this point of view to their friends and neighbors when the discussion turns to the need for affordable housing, adequate child care for single moms, and the problems of the working poor” (p. 16).
“Surprising to many of the Summer Associates was the realization that, although growing up in the immediate area, many of the dire socioeconomic challenges never surfaced until they had experienced the actual hands-on engagements the Summer Associate project provided” (p. 20).
“Sometimes you don’t realize how important you are to people. If I could be in AmeriCorps the rest of my life, I would make that my career” (p. 23).
Other CNCS programs support summer opportunities:
- A STEM-specific AmeriCorps program places members in STEM programs. In a 2014 pilot, 256 STEM VISTAs served approximately 20,600 at-risk students with STEM opportunities in six states*.
- The CNCS Youth Opportunity AmeriCorps program employs at-risk and formerly incarcerated youth in service projects, as part of the My Brother’s Keeper initiative.
- The CNCS Social Innovation Fund passes grants through experienced grant-making intermediaries that are well-positioned within communities to identify the most promising programs and provide funding, technical assistance, and evaluation support.
The Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) is funded through the annual appropriations process. Congress has included in the FY2016 omnibus budget $1.1 billion for CNCS, an increase of $40 million from FY2015, including an increase of $51 million in AmeriCorps grants. Earlier this year, the House and Senate had approved bills to dramatically reduce the federal investment in CNCS, so this represents a huge win for the service community and the summer programs that rely on these programs for staffing and new growth.
Contact your congressional representatives and let them know how AmeriCorps programs support youth in your community.
*Corporation for National and Community Service. FY 2014 Agency Financial Report, Washington, DC, 20525. Retrieved from http://www.nationalservice.gov/sites/default/files/documents/CNCS_AFR_2014_Report_508_r2.pdf
†Corporation for National and Community Service. AmeriCorps VISTA Summer Associate Program, Washington, DC, 20525. Retrieved from http://www.nationalservice.gov/sites/default/files/documents/acvista_summerstories.pdf