- - Thursday, May 25, 2017

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

America today faces a staggering reality: 5.5 million young adults are currently neither in school nor working. This is a gross underutilization of a vast pool of untapped talent and energy, resources that could be used to build communities across the nation and abroad. Service-year programs such as AmeriCorps, the Peace Corps and YouthBuild provide opportunities for Americans to gain workforce skills and provide creative solutions to address many issues that face communities today. As racial, economic, religious and political division is on the rise, this is not a time to cut funding to programs that help to build and strengthen communities. Instead it is time to support those initiatives so that all participants benefit.

I had the opportunity to serve through Peace Corps in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. During my service I worked at a nonprofit that served to instill life skills and independence in adults with intellectual disabilities. The organization also worked hard to reduce stigma against this population and find work for its members within the local community. Serving in Macedonia empowered me to become a better leader and build inner confidence.

Service years have the power to unleash talent to tackle community challenges in education, health poverty and more. Expanding funding and opportunities for service allows Americans to learn bout themselves and others while gaining skills that are transferable to the workplace.

I urge Congress to expand service-year opportunities and make service a top priority.

MARY HULSE

Washington

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