In 1993, the National and Community Service Trust Act passed under U.S. President Bill Clinton, paving the way for a federal government program called Americorps. Americorps is a program that places volunteers in a variety of public service settings, from education to environmental restoration and clean-up services. It is divided into three main sections: Americorps State and National, Americorps Vista (which stands for Volunteers in Service to America), and America NCCC (National Civilian Community Corps).
The largest division is the Americorps State and National. This division undertakes educational tasks and community development projects, such as after-school tutoring, recruitment, and public safety. Participants in Americorps State and National are paid a small living stipend and are awarded almost $5000 US dollars to pay for college or outstanding college loans. In addition, these Americorps volunteers gain experience in a variety of fields, from tutoring and other educational settings to environmental projects, as well as community projects aimed at getting low-income people out of poverty. Projects are based on specific community needs rather than a general overall goal.
Americorps Vista was originally a division of the Peace Corps and was implemented in the 1960's by U.S. President John F. Kennedy. It is designed specifically to aid low income Americans and help get them the skills they need to rise from poverty. Vista volunteers generally work with a variety of non-profit organizations and faith-based organizations to work with impoverished Americans. Vista volunteers also receive a modest living stipend as well as money to pay for school or student loans.
Americorps NCCC accepts volunteers from ages 18-24. Volunteers are committed for ten months to a base in one of several locations throughout the United States. Their activities span a vast number of different projects, from urban housing rehabilitation to wilderness clean-up. In addition, Americorps NCCC volunteers may work on a project to develop community emergency plans, natural disaster clean-ups and evacuation plans, or other community planning projects. Like the other divisions of Americorps, NCCC works with non-profit organizations, faith based organizations, schools, cities, and towns.
While critics of Americorps argue that the living stipend is not enough for volunteers to live off, proponents maintain the program is valuable in establishing a sense of community and service among young people throughout the country, which carries its own value. Further, Americorps brings attention to lesser known non-profits who may be struggling to attract volunteers.
Volunteers must submit an application to be accepted to Americorps. More information and application packets can be found at their website.