President Obama has made it pretty clear that he wants Americans to respond to his national call to action and volunteer in their communities. And this past week he signed a $5.7 billion national service bill that will help Americans do just that. This bill, the Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act, triples the size of the AmeriCorps
service program over the next eight years and expands ways for students to earn money for college.
"I'm asking you to help change history's course, put your shoulder up against the wheel," Obama said. "And if you do, I promise you your life will be richer, our country will be stronger, and someday, years from now, you may remember it as the moment when your own story and the American story converged, when they came together, and we met the challenges of our new century."
The service law expands ways for students to earn money for college through their volunteer work by matching applicants skills with needs in the community. AmeriCorps projects include mentoring children, cleaning up parks or buildings and weatherizing homes for the poor.
The legislation provides for gradually increasing the size of the AmeriCorps from it's current level of 75,000 enrollees to 250,000 enrollees. The bill also outlines five broad categories where people can direct their service: helping the poor, improving education, encouraging energy efficiency, strengthening access to health care and assisting veterans.
AmeriCorps offers a range of volunteer opportunities including housing construction, youth outreach, disaster response and caring for the elderly. Most receive an annual stipend of slightly less than $12,000 for working 10 months to a year.