I was 25 when I inadvertently landed in the mecca of national service, leading Experience Corps Bay Area, an intergenerational tutoring program fueled by service members of all ages. Over the course of the most formative decade of my career, I found myself working side-by-side with a thriving, multicultural, multigenerational team, including dozens of AmeriCorps VISTAS as young as 18 and hundreds of older Senior Corps, AmeriCorps and Experience Corps members—all dedicated to creating a better future for future generations.
There’s a long line of national service heroes who profoundly shaped my view of what it looks like to dedicate the entirety of one’s life to community change: “Diamond Dave” Whitaker, beat poet and mentor to Bob Dylan spoke almost exclusively in rhyme, and regularly assured me I’d never be poor in mind if I had a library card; Virginia Sturwold, steely-eyed survivor of the Bataan Death March became like a second grandma to me; Tess Manalo-Ventresca, a not-so-retired community activist, more than anyone else, embodied the AmeriCorps spirit of “getting things done”; Joe Friedman, one of the true greats from the Greatest Generation insisted I shouldn’t cancel my volunteer training the day after 9/11—that in times like these, we needed to get together to mourn, and then to go out and make a difference where we could.
These corps members, and millions more like them, represent our country at its very best, harnessing the wisdom of age and the energy of youth to get things done. National service is one of the most powerful bridges between age, race, culture and class I have ever witnessed. Yet the future of national service has never been more uncertain due to federal budget cuts that could eliminate AmeriCorps and Senior Corps presence in many of our communities. In these divisive times, we need more people of all ages pursuing positive change around the country—not less.
In this together,
Eunice Lin Nichols
Campaign Director, Generation to Generation
Published: March 31, 2017