By Meaghan Tetro, Franklin & Marshall College
On Friday, February 23, 2018, I was able to attend a National Commission on Public, National, and Military service at the HACC Harrisburg Campus along with a few other members of the PACC cohort. At this event, there were 11 commissioners looking for input from the community about changes that should be made to selective service, and ideas for ways to engage young people in public service. Harrisburg was the first of 11 cities that the Commission will visit across the country, and the Commission plans to take the feedback it gains to make a recommendation to Congress and the Presidents by March of 2020.
At this event, there was an opportunity for people from the community to stand up and share reasons why they chose to serve. Many told their stories about why they chose to enlist in the Armed Forces. Others shared why they decided to dedicate a year of their lives to serving their community with AmeriCorps. Some spoke about the barriers faced when entering a service like AmeriCorps; the financial burden can prohibit someone who is already living in an impoverished community to continue to live in the “simulated poverty” that comes along with AmeriCorps positions. Myself and Brianna Pearson, PACC*VISTA at Alvernia University, had the opportunity to share our own thoughts with the commission as well.
Personally, I chose to share with the commission members that their recruitment presence on college and university campuses should drastically increase. With the rising cost of education, but no decline in necessity for higher education, making the right decision when it comes to schooling is more important than ever. The number of students who are about to leave college or high school — but are unsure about what to do next — is only going to increase. National service programs like AmeriCorps VISTA could be the perfect opportunity for these individuals because not only are they able to have hands-on interactions with their community and make real changes at a grassroots level, they are able to explore themselves personally and professionally, and have more direction when choosing what their next pursuit will be. If AmeriCorps advertised their programs more effectively on college campuses, they would see a huge increase in participation from young people.
Overall, it was exciting to have the opportunity to speak to members of the government who have opened their ears to the public. I enjoyed meeting up with some of my fellow VISTAs and hearing what they, and the greater Harrisburg community, had to offer to the commission. If you are interested in learning more about the mission and objectives of the National Commission on Military, National, and Public Service, you can visit their website at inspire2serve.gov.