March 27, 2009

Still Speechless: Service-Learning Thank Yous and Next Steps

March 27, 2009 - It's been almost 24 hours since The Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act was passed by the U.S. Senate and I am still at a loss for words. I think sleep depreviation and a four-day diet of non-stop C-SPAN, popcorn, and Diet Coke will do that to you.

We understand the House is scheduled to vote on the bill on Monday. Since there was so much bipartisan and bicameral collaboration between the House and Senate, there is no need to send the bill to conference. Analysts expect President Obama to sign the bill as early as next week.

On Monday, we will urge service-learning supporters to thank Members of Congress for their support. As Michael Brown co-founder of City Year is fond of saying: "Thank yous are like hot pancakes. They need to be served right away." And of course, our job is only half-way done as our attention shifts toward promoting service-learning within the U.S. Department of Education and ensuring increased funding for 2010 (...just because Congress gave permission to spend more money on service-learning doesn't mean it will actually happen). But for now, we will enjoy the moment and gear up for Round 2 on Monday.

In the meantime, I want to publicly thank the amazing team of fierce and committed advocates working with and for you here in Washington, DC:

--Kelita Bak (Camp Fire USA)
--Ross Wilson (formerly with Youth Service America and Camp Fire USA)
--Vince Meldrum (Earth Force)
--Mike Minks (Youth Service America)
--Maureen Curley (Campus Compact)
--Teri Dary (SEANet) and
--our most recent recruits, Kari Arfstrom and Jodie (National Youth Leadership Council) helping with media outreach.

Of course we can't forget Alan Melchoir and Jim Kielsmeier who were always just a phone call or email away and ready to draft or dictate language for rapid response questions and requests for clarification from the Hill. Also special thanks to colleagues at Voices for National Service and ServiceNation: Jennifer Ney, Adam Donaldson, Emily Cherniack, and AnnMaura Connolly.

None--I repeat--NONE of this would have been possible without this team.

To our Merry Band of Service-Learning Advocates: there are a lot of congratulation messages circulating now--and each of you deserve every message that appears and more! I am proud to serve with you.

Get rest now because our next battle is just around the corner (smile).


P.S. - We should also recognize the staff members from both sides of the aisles in both the House Committee on Education and the Workforce and the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions: Denise, Alex, Kim, Amy, Fred, Emma, Chris, and Adam (and everyone else I'm probably forgetting). They each found the perfect balance between doing their jobs as Committee Staff and actively listening to voices from the field. We had opportunities for genuine input. While we didn't get everything we wanted, we always had the chance to make our case and they always listened. And for that, we are extremely grateful.

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