Celebrating AmeriCorps


By: Amelia Light (pictured on the left) – K3 Tutor at Mount Vernon Community School

I love Reading Corps. It’s a wonderful program, and it really does work – as a Reading Corps tutor, though, I know that it’s hard work every day. I am a trusted adult for kids who don’t know many adults they can trust. I have to stay focused, keep my students focused, support their language development, support their reading, and help them love reading. When I evaluate their progress weekly and tri-annually, I look at their reading ability and wonder: what more can I do? Yes, they are growing and learning; but is it enough? How else can I help them? Reading Corps is always rewarding – but some days, it can be exhausting.

So it’s always nice to be reminded of the value of our service. And, occasionally, it’s humbling – especially when the President of The United States is the one to remind you.

Earlier this month, I had the opportunity to celebrate the 20th anniversary of AmeriCorps at the White House. I took the AmeriCorps pledge along with 150 other AmeriCorps members, President Clinton, and President Obama. It was a once-in-a-lifetime event, and it was amazing. The weather was perfect, the grass on the South Lawn was very soft, and I got to shake hands with both presidents. That’s not what a normal day of service is like! President Obama and President Clinton gave short speeches on the legacy and impact of AmeriCorps. They each gave me something to think about over the next few days, but I was particularly struck by President Obama’s mention of citizenship – maybe just because I was sitting in front of the White House, but it resonated with me. As the President said: we are working to make our country better, “safer and healthier, and more fair and more just,” and yet we still have a long way to go.

I joined Reading Corps a year ago because there is a fundamental disparity in the quality of education that American children have access to. There is a profound literacy gap between low-income and high-income students, which is neither fair nor just. For me, being an American citizen means not just enjoying my rights and privileges, but working to make the country a better place. In my first year of Reading Corps, I saw the difference that reading interventions made in a Head Start classroom. My students made huge gains – but they still had so far to go! Even with the incredible progress they made, many of my kiddos were still below target: they would still not be at grade level in kindergarten. My work was not done.

At the end of his speech, President Obama reminded us that we were there to celebrate – but also to rededicate ourselves to the work ahead. We are not done, but we have begun to make a difference. Through my commitment to AmeriCorps, I will continue to make a difference in the communities I serve, in this year and the years ahead.