AmeriCorps and Community Relations
On AmeriCorps' Web site, the organization is described as "a program of the Corporation for National and Community Service, an independent federal agency whose mission is to improve lives, strengthen communities, and foster civic engagement through service and volunteering" [source: AmeriCorps]. But what does that really mean? As we've discussed throughout this article, one of AmeriCorps' biggest motivations is to enable and encourage higher education, fostering skills and innovation that will help develop the United States. Because of the government's renewed focus on developing domestic resources, recent laws and initiatives enable new funding for the program to increase its scope [source: Independent Sector]. Demand for the program is growing: The first four months of 2009 saw a 400 percent increase in AmeriCorps applications [source: The Democratic Party].
The first National Service Act was signed by the first President Bush in 1990, setting the foundation of AmeriCorps as we know it. President Clinton signed the National and Community Service Trust Act in 1993, which paved the way for AmeriCorps' 1994 launch [source: AmeriCorps]. The second Bush administration was noted for its enthusiastic support of the program [source: Waldman].
In a 2001 Washington Monthly article about AmeriCorps' significance, Senator John McCain argued against the notion that community service initiatives are mostly associated with the Democratic Party, "because duty, honor, and country are values that transcend ideology" [source: McCain]. More recently, after Republican Senator Orrin Hatch and Democratic Senator Edward Kennedy worked on the Serve America Act together, Senator Hatch requested that the bill be named after Senator Kennedy to honor the Kennedy family's dedication to service -- a notable change from 1993, when Senator Hatch voted against the original law [source: The Democratic Party, Waldman]. Support for AmeriCorps' initiatives was also demonstrated by the results of the Serve America Act, which passed in 2009 with a House of Representatives vote of 275 to 149 and a Senate vote of 78 to 20 [source: Herszenhorn, Committee on Education and Labor]. The strong approval of volunteer programs demonstrates that AmeriCorps' focus on teamwork has merit.