A Special Birthday Wish…


All of us celebrate government when it makes smart investments that result in the betterment of all of our lives.  Great examples of this have been the Internet, our GPS systems, micro-chips, and even the vaccines that keep us healthy. In the same vein, I say we celebrate AmeriCorps.

Just think about it. Talented adults are teaching in thousands of schools because of AmeriCorps.  Millions of children are receiving health and nutrition education because of AmeriCorps.  Millions of seniors receive emotional support because of AmeriCorps.  Disaster sites like New Orleans are rebuilt again because of AmeriCorps.  And now, sports is being revived in inner cities because of AmeriCorps.

This week, we celebrate the 20th anniversary of AmeriCorps: one of our federal government's major success stories.   We need to recognize that AmeriCorps has often provided the seed money to “great ideas” that we have since taken for granted as they have become the fabric of our American lives.

My own program, Up2Us, was based on a simple idea: a coach can be the most transformative adult in a child’s life, especially children who are in underserved communities and lack adult role models. AmeriCorps provided me the opportunity to hire and train my first coaches in 2009.  Since then, thanks to public-private partnerships, I’ve hired more than 1,700 coaches who have committed themselves to serving more than 133,650 at-risk youth in more than 60 different sports.  This simple idea has had powerful results: our trained coaches can reduce violence by up to 40% in urban communities.  Our trained coaches can lead to significant increases in physical activity that reduces the risk of obesity.  And, our trained coaches have helped youth in the worst performing schools to refocus their energy into educational pathways that lead to college and successful careers.  And now, thanks to AmeriCorps, my program is ready to take the innovative training we have developed for our coaches and make it available to the estimated 6.5 million volunteer coaches who want to be more effective at teaching life skills to their teams.

Up2Us is just one example of the power of AmeriCorps has to light a spark that impacts a nation.

Happy 20th Anniversary, AmeriCorps.  When I Google “national service" on the the internet, I will smile broadly at how many of the 52 million results were made possible by you!   And, I’ll smile also knowing that Google was made possible by our federal government, too.


Paul Caccamo

Executive Director and Founder, Up2Us