We are writing in response to your editorial, "AmeriCorps: a waste of money?" (Sept. 11). The program will definitely do more than spend scarce federal dollars. AmeriCorps is designed to help its members pay for their post-secondary education as well as give them an opportunity to serve in the community.
The article referred to AmeriCorps grantees as "volunteers," a term that has intentionally been replaced with "members," because they do collect a small stipend for their service. However, the members are obviously focused more on their positive impact in the community than the stipend, considering they earn much less than they would with alternative employment.AmeriCorps gives students an opportunity to improve their communities and pay for post-secondary education. The stipend simply allows them to meet basic living expenses.
AmeriCorps funding in Utah is handled through the Utah Commission for National and Community Service. The money, which is credited to the members for their service term, is given directly to their school for tuition. In addition, local communities or businesses will only be responsible for 15 percent of stipend costs and 25 percent of program and health-care costs.
There will always be a need for service. Increased drug use, illiteracy, gang violence and environmental damage have created the need for thousands of volunteers who have a vision of a better community. AmeriCorps will fill some of those needs while helping the members get an education to further benefit them and the community.
For both the community and AmeriCorps members, give the program a chance to succeed.
Ginger DeHart, Melissa Ivey, Jeff Peery,
Megan Sibbett, Brad Thatcher
BYU student volunteers