‘Eagles’ descend on D.C. to preserve national service programs

Service Year Alliance marched on Capitol Hill to urge Congress to expand federal funding for national service programs. This year, the organization took its cue from another federal success story, the bald eagle.

Inflatable eagle costumes may appear to be a conceptual evolution for Service Year Alliance’s second march on the U.S. Capitol, but the fight is still the same: preventing the extinction of national service programs.

While the 2017 #LetUsServe protest featured inflatable T-Rex costumes, dozens of Service Year Alliance supporters returned to Capitol Hill last week in a more “evolved” state. They were part of a contingent of more than 200 national service advocates who urged Congress to expand funding for AmeriCorps, Senior Corps, Peace Corps and YouthBuild.

Chanting “Let Us Serve. Let Us Serve,” the protesters took “flight” as a nod to the success story of the bald eagle, the national symbol saved from extinction through federal intervention.

“We are here today with the eagles serving as an example to not just stay flat but to grow national service opportunities for young people in the United States of America,” Service Year Alliance President Robert Simmons III said at the rally.

For the second consecutive year, the Trump administration has proposed the elimination of the Corporation for National and Community Service, which administers AmeriCorps and Senior Corps, as well as severe budget cuts to other national service programs.

Service Year Alliance has mobilized a national campaign to counter this threat, which began with the rally in Washington D.C. and continued this week in Seattle.

The testimony from AmeriCorps alumna, Erin Mauffray, on the Capitol lawn exemplified how national service makes an impact on the individual and communities. According to Service Year Alliance, Mauffray joined up with AmeriCorps VISTA in Mississippi after she lost her home during Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and was inspired by AmeriCorps members who helped her in the aftermath.

“The service I did there—fighting poverty through education—the people I met, and the concepts and skills I learned are invaluable to me. My service year with AmeriCorps VISTA shaped my career and led me to return to Mississippi to teach after graduate school at a time when most young professionals are leaving the state,” Mauffray said.

RELATED STORY: A Day of Service for MLK Day 2018

In response to Hurricanes Irma and Harvey, AmeriCorps dispatched 2,000 members to assist in recovery efforts in Puerto Rico, Florida, and Texas. The positive impact of this work is highlighted in Service Year Alliance’s video on the necessity of expanding this program.

Beyond the protest in Washington D.C., Service Year Alliance advocates spent their time in meeting with members of Congress and staff members to share their stories and get their support. It is an issue that garners backing from across the political spectrum. More than 80 percent of voters support national service programs, according to Service Year Alliance.

Last year, Congress preserved funding for national service programs and impacted the lives of so many Americans, including 75,000 AmeriCorps participants. We hope that the #EaglesInDC movement is successful in not just saving these programs but convincing Congress to add to the ranks of those who take it upon themselves to serve their country.

You can help promote Service Year Alliance’s mission by contacting your local member of Congress to urge them to save national service programs. Their website has a helpful feature to spread the word through social media. For more information, click here.

To see more media coverage from the rally, head to Vice News and WJLA for their reports.

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