AmeriCorps celebrates 20th anniversary
Next Friday, AmeriCorps will be celebrating its 20th anniversary. This year marks the 20th year since President Clinton created AmeriCorps, a program that connects Americans of all ages and backgrounds with opportunities to give back to their communities and their nation. Since its inception, more than 900,000 men and women have taken the AmeriCorps pledge, serving over one billion hours and improving the lives of countless Americans.
As part of the 20th anniversary, the Clinton Center will host a celebration that includes remarks by Governor Mike Beebe and General Wesley K. Clark, (Ret.) and the swearing-in of new Arkansas AmeriCorps members. This celebration will be held concurrently with the swearing-in ceremonies taking place in other states throughout the country, and the White House.
Kim Burnett is a teacher at Warren Elementary School and is a former AmericaCorps member.
I was a janitor at the Southeast Arkansas Education Service Cooperative when I was encouraged to join the local AmeriCorps VISTA program. I had cleaned the building for years in order to support my two children, but never considered a career in education. I had attempted college twice and withdrew both times. I assumed that I had closed the door on the possibility of earning a college degree. But AmeriCorps changed all that.
I became an AmeriCorps ember in 1998 and served one year at Warren Elementary School in Warren, where I tutored kindergarten and first grade students.
I served a second year at Drew Central Elementary School in Monticello, where I tutored third and fourth grade students.
It was not an easy time in my life, but it was one of the most rewarding. I would wake up early and take my own children to school, then I would serve in my AmeriCorps position during the school day, and at night I would work my janitorial job. The days were long, but it was the first time I felt like I was making a difference. I realized I needed to be a teacher. And for the first time, I realized I actually could be a teacher.
The education award that is provided after service with AmeriCorps enabled me to earn my elementary education degree at the University of Arkansas at Monticello, and I have been teaching at Warren Elementary School for 10 years. I wasn¹t sure I would ever earn a college degree, but I have now earned my Masters of Elementary Education with a concentration in technology.
Because of AmeriCorps, my accomplishments have inspired my own children to continue their education as well. My daughter is currently working toward her business degree, and my son is currently enrolled at the University of Arkansas at Monticello.
It would be an understatement to say that I am an advocate for AmeriCorps. I am passionate about the program and encourage all young people to serve in this capacity. AmeriCorps could open doors that you never thought were possible. I am so thankful to President Clinton for establishing this inspiring program 20 years ago, and that I was given the opportunity to serve others while making a better future for myself.
I remember asking my dad, How did I get here? My dad answered, Don¹t ask questions, just remember the footprints.”