Plenary: 20 Years of National Service Success

 


From Left to Right: AnnMaura Connolly, President of Voices for National Service; Wendy Spencer, CEO of the Corporation for National and Community Service; Carrie Hessler-Radelet, Acting Director of the Peace Corps.
 

This exciting session brought together three leaders from the world of National Service. AnnMaura Connolly, President of Voices for National Service, moderated a discussion between Wendy Spencer, CEO of the Corporation for National and Community Service and Carrie Hessler-Radelet, Acting Director of the Peace Corps.

The passage of the Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act was an early victory for National Service during President Obama’s first term, but proposed cuts have threatened funding for service programs, including domestic Corps and The Peace Corps. In addition to this key topic, Ms. Spencer and Ms. Hessler-Radelet both discussed how levels of volunteerism are at a high, and how more service opportunities should be made available in order to accommodate every American that is ready and willing to work.

Both women also shared inspiring stories about how they have personally seen the impact that service can have on service recipients and service providers. Wendy Spencer talked specifically about her time in New York and New Jersey following Superstorm Sandy. She was impressed by the fantastic work of Service and Conservation Corps that traveled across the country to provide assistance as part of a joint FEMA-AmeriCorps mission assignment. Carrie Hessler-Radelet queried the Conference audience, and discovered that many attendees were Peace Corps alumni. Facilitating reciprocal connections between the talent pipeline developed by the Peace Corps and domestic service programs like Service and Conservation Corps was a goal she addressed at length.
 


Alex Hreha, a 2013 Corpsmember of the Year from Coconino Rural Environment Corps, starts off the session with an inspiring speech.

 

Before the panel discussion, Alex Hreha, a 2013 Corpsmember of the Year, delivered an inspiring speech about how the Coconino Rural Environment Corps (CREC) helped him realized a passion for conservation. Alex talked about how he had been overweight and under-motivated throughout much of his high school career. The Corps helped him build confidence, learn valuable new skills, and develop the mindset to lose weight and get in shape. 

The panelists were particularly impressed by Alex’s story. Wendy Spencer even remarked that it mirrored many of AmeriCorps objectives for outcomes for its program participants. Later on in the day she even gave a shout out to Alex on Twitter: