The past few years were difficult.
The global pandemic and events of 2020 and 2021 emphasized the inequity in our world. Communities from San Jose to Chicago, Charleston, Pittsburgh, El Paso, Atlanta, Buffalo, and beyond are still healing from hateful attacks. Americans are looking to rebuild and break down barriers that lead to such tragedy.
In response, the White House hosted the United We Stand summit with President Biden calling upon Americans to unite through national service and volunteerism to counter the corrosive effects of hate-fueled violence on our democracy and public safety. AmeriCorps CEO Michael D. Smith announced the agency’s commitment to grow national service efforts. He also shared how AmeriCorps members and AmeriCorps Seniors volunteers are “uniters” —proving every day that service can unite people regardless of race, religion, or background.
Meet four such national service members and learn more about their work to bring communities together to solve local challenges.
Turning tragedy to opportunity
In Oxford, Mich., on November 30, 2021, a school shooting killed four students and injured seven others.
Buck and Sheri Myre struggled to make sense of how to move forward after losing their son Tate in the attack. Through their grief, they came to realize that if the young man who pulled the trigger had a sense of belonging, perhaps their son and the other students would still be alive.
The Myre family created 42 Strong, a mentoring program that matches older students as mentors to younger students in the Oxford community, with a mission to create a better future by helping students develop a sense of purpose, community, and resilience. The program is designed around 12 characteristics that symbolized Tate's life – trust, care, fun, positivity, teachable, humility, confidence, selflessness, hard work, respect, accountability, and loyalty.
Today, 42 Strong has helped more than 200 students.
Three decades of giving back
Senior advisor to AmeriCorps NCCC Sueko Kumagai has served others since 1992.
She was in the inaugural class of Peace Corps volunteers in Republic of Armenia. During her service, Sueko worked with local teachers at the State Medical Institute to develop new curricula and teaching materials; teach medical courses in English to students, graduate researchers, and professors; and collaborate with the Medical Student Association to develop an HIV/AIDS awareness program for high school students.
Sueko stayed in Armenia after completing her Peace Corps service with the USIA-funded Freedom Support Youth Exchange program to prepare Armenian high school students to study in America. She continued her commitment to national service at the Peace Corps in the Office of Volunteer Recruitment and Selection before becoming a desk officer in the Eastern Europe, Mediterranean, and Asia Region.
Sueko joined AmeriCorps in 2001, and in 2019 she became a senior advisor to the AmeriCorps NCCC program, leading strategic and operational projects.
Her leadership has helped pave the way for many others to participate in national service.
Passion leads to lifelong commitment
Martin Cominsky has lived a life of service for 40 years. The president and CEO of Interfaith Ministries for Greater Houston, Martin has an unwavering passion for helping people.
In his 17 years as regional director of the Anti-Defamation League, Martin led efforts to unite more than 400 schools to foster respect and challenge bullying behavior through lessons of respect and acceptance He helped 1,500+ Afghan allies and their families adapt to their lives in Houston. After a mass shooting in a nearby community, Martin worked with other community members to host vigils and unite people in prayer and reflection.
Martin continues to encourage the next generation to serve.
Paving the way through service
Patrice became a ward of the court at the age of 15. Her mother struggled with mental health issues and her father fought drug addiction. Despite her difficult childhood, Patrice continued her education. In 1987, she became one of three Black women to earn an electrical engineering degree from the University of Detroit. She earned her MBA – the only female in the program – in 2002. This experience motivated her to join national service and help other Black girls and women become a part of the skilled trades.
Patrice joined AmeriCorps VISTA in Michigan and served as a member and then as a VISTA leader before she was appointed program coordinator of the state-wide AmeriCorps VISTA program in Michigan. With Patrice at the helm, recruitment of full-time and summer associate members from diverse backgrounds increased by more than 50 percent, and in some years, the program saw a75 percent growth.
Her leadership has opened doors for countless national service members. Patrice is a role model to others, and she continues to transform lives.
Answer the call to serve
These leaders are doing extraordinary work in their communities to stand together against hate, build bridges, and heal divides. They are proof that service can unite people regardless of race, religion, or background. If you are a uniter or know someone with an incredible story of giving back, share your story with us.
AmeriCorps has always been a force multiplier. We bring people together across divides and we help bring communities back stronger for a more united America.
Join with us to foster a sense of constructive action, civic participation, and belonging.