About 9 years ago I was fortunate enough to become a member of AmeriCorps as a VISTA volunteer. I moved away from my comfy home in Massachusetts to live in rural Montana in order to help teens and children avoid drugs, alcohol and pregnancy. It was easily the hardest job(s) I have ever had. With little formal training, I became a grant writer, community organizer, non-profit manager, juvenile justice counselor, risk management analyst and local celebrity. I worked 60 to 80 hours a week and got paid $11,000 for the year.
Working in Montana that year was an experience I still treasure. I made a measurable difference in the lives of hundreds of kids, made some wonderful friends and tested my intellectual/emotional limits.
This is why I am so pissed off after reading this. Sen. Coburn (R-OK) has decided to hijack a symbolic senatorial resolution which praises the efforts of AmeriCorps members. Instead, Coburn has the bill on hold and will only release it if he can make substantial edits to the bill. Those edits include, open criticisms of the program for wasting government money and taking out any language which heaps too much praise on previous volunteers (you can read the proposed edits here).
Now I am quite certain that my fellow AmeriCorps members and I will be able to get on with our lives, with or without this resolution. We chose to serve because we thought it was the right thing to do and we wanted to do our part. What makes me mad is that Coburn is full of shit. As you will note above, the government paid me $11,000 for my service. On grant writing alone, I brought my community over $50,000. The idea that this program is a waste of government resources is ludicrous. And then, to temper any praise which he believes as effusive is petty (although this is the same man who got mad at NBC for showing an unedited version of Schindler's List because there was some nudity in the movie). I am very glad this party is no longer in the majority.