Remarks as Prepared for Delivery by AmeriCorps CEO Michael D. Smith at the 2023 National Partnership for Student Success Summit
Michael D. Smith, the eighth CEO of AmeriCorps, gave remarks celebrating thousands of volunteers who stepped up to serve in student support roles. The National Partnership for Student Success is a public-private partnership between the Biden-Harris Administration, led by the Department of Education and AmeriCorps, and leading national education and youth-serving organizations.
Thank you, Tyler Gwendolyn Brown for that kind introduction; for your AmeriCorps service with Breakthrough Miami; and for your continued dedication to helping our youngest learners during your time at Howard University.
We often say that it “takes a village” to raise and care for our children. The people in this room, the folks who are joining online today, you are not just part of that village—your leadership makes this village possible.
The COVID-19 pandemic pulled back the curtain on challenges facing our kids, our teachers, and our schools.
Despite the best efforts of many: kids were struggling to get to class—and stay in class; learning gaps persisted across schools; and students, particularly in underserved communities, lacked the wraparound supports and individual attention they deserved.
So yes, the pandemic brought these challenges into the light—but it also raised the stakes and exacerbated conditions that kept our kids from learning to their full potential.
That’s why the President asked us to meet this historic challenge…with a historic, bold solution: recruit an additional 250,000 people to serve by 2025.
And I’m proud to say that the National Partnership for Student Success is answering this call.
A new report released by Johns Hopkins University showed that an estimated 187,000 additional adults served K-12 students during the last school year.
These community leaders are tutoring students and providing an extra set of eyes in the classroom. They’re supporting mentorship programs that improve student attendance and graduation rates. They’re developing after-school and summer
programs with community partners. They’re advising students on applying for financial aid for college. And so much more.
I’m proud to say that many of these student supports are AmeriCorps members and AmeriCorps Seniors volunteers! And they all deserve our gratitude and support. Let’s give them a round of applause!
AmeriCorps is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year. And since day one, education has lived at the heart of our programs. Today, more than 50,000 AmeriCorps members and AmeriCorps Seniors volunteers contribute to student success at nearly 10,000 schools. In addition to Tyler, we’ll hear from a few more of these esteemed alumni during our panel discussion today.
Over the last three decades, we’ve learned a great deal from our members, volunteers, and partners. Particularly around the cost of recruiting, training, and retaining volunteers.
That’s why we’re proud that the AmeriCorps’ Volunteer Generation Fund can help alleviate some of this burden. Volunteer Generation Fund grants give community organizations the funding they need to invest in volunteer management practices—so they can make an even bigger impact on their mission.
Over the last year, AmeriCorps has awarded more than $20M to 21 organizations—some are here today, like Partners for Rural Impact, Reading Partners, AARP Foundation, and the Massachusetts and New Jersey AmeriCorps state service commissions. This funding will support more than 40,000 volunteers in NPSS-aligned roles.
As we continue to meet this moment, I am reminded of quote from President Clinton, who founded AmeriCorps, something he said during the first swearing-in ceremony of AmeriCorps members:
He said: “Service is a spark to rekindle the spirit of democracy in an age of uncertainty…when it is all said and done, it comes down to three simple questions: What is right? What is wrong? And what are we going to do about it?”
Thank you all for stepping up and for choosing to do something about it: the organizations who recruit volunteers; our college and university partners who get their students involved in the community; and of course, our NPSS partners—the Johns Hopkins University and the Department of Education.
Now, it’s my honor to introduce my partner in this work, the honorable Secretary of Education, Dr. Miguel Cardona.
Dr. Cardona brings decades of experience as a teacher, principal, district administrator, and state leader to his role. He is a firm believer that being an educator isn’t only a job – it’s an extension of your life’s purpose.
Secretary Cardona’s focus throughout his career on raising the bar for equity and excellence for all learners guides his leadership of the Department of Education in service of the nation’s 65 million students and families. Please join me in welcoming the 12th US Secretary of Education, Miguel Cardona.