AmeriCorps volunteers try to make difference
The Peace Corps may save the world, but AmeriCorps works to save America, especially America's youth.
St. Louis Partners AmeriCorps, a national service program, provides participants with money for education in return for a year or two of community service. In addition to the educational support, AmeriCorps offers a substantial stipend.
Areas that St. Louis Partners support are the St. Louis Public Schools, women's support and community services, and emergency response teams.
AmeriCorps' members tutor and mentor students in the St. Louis schools, work to revitalize neighborhoods, and clean up after natural disasters.
St. Louis AmeriCorps works with America's Promise.
Dawne Nasiruddin, an America's Promise Fellow in St. Louis Partners AmeriCorps, joined AmeriCorps to make a difference.
"The mission [of America's Promise] is to provide profitable resources for our youth," Nasiruddin said.
Habibah Hakeem, a recruitment specialist in St. Louis Partners AmeriCorps, originally joined to support her studies at UM-St. Louis.
"[America's Promise] has companies and businesses that are here in St. Louis that have made a commitment to our children. America's Promise [takes the] responsibility to contact those particular companies and find out what resources they're willing to supply," Hakeem said.
AmeriCorps began in 1993.
"We consider ourselves a derivative of the PeaceCorps, but we are stateside and we deal with the issues of our children here in the United States," Hakeem said.
America's Promise originated at a Presidential Summit in 1997.
"All the living presidents and their wives got together to figure out what was the biggest threat as a nation and they came up with a threat to the youth," Nasiruddin said.
The education component of AmeriCorps began six years ago. Since then, for the children tutored, there is an average increase in two letter grades. The program is offered in twelve different locations and at no cost.
Not only does the program benefit children, but it also offers many opportunities for its members.
"For a number of students who don't know exactly how they are going to finish their education, it's such a wonderful opportunity," Nasiruddin said.
Besides the monetary support, AmeriCorps provides a chance to do practicums and try new activities.
"I had a marketing background, and I changed it to non-profit management seeing the need for business to be actively involved," Nasiruddin said.
"It can also help your focus and get the extra confidence you need," Hakeem said.
Kareema Shaheed, vice-president of the Ahmadi Muslim Student Association, is in the process of joining AmeriCorps.
"I try to give of my time when I could and if I couldn't help directly I'd help indirectly. AmeriCorps will give me an opportunity to have a stipend each month and still go to school," Shaheed said.
"There's nothing more powerful than seeing people going into a community and without a lot of rhetoric making a change. The only obstacles are those we set for ourselves," Nasiruddin said.
In addition, AmeriCorps trains its members in conflict resolution, outdoor adventure, and community problem solving.
"It's one of those jobs where you wake up and you want to go to work," Hakeem said.
For more information on St. Louis Partners AmeriCorps, please call (314) 772-9002.