Character-building valuable part of NCCC

Published 12:01 am Sunday, June 13, 2010

Just when it appeared the beautiful buildings on the lush grounds of the former All Saints’ Episcopal School might become liabilities instead of assets, things changed. The AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps Southern Region Campus was designated for Vicksburg and it was headquartered in the school’s administrative buildings and dorms.

At the end of May, the first “class” of 151 corps members graduated, having completed their national service hours, and prepared to move on with the next phases of their young lives. It was a happy day.

AmeriCorps has its critics. The federal program was ramped up during the administration of former President Bill Clinton, then scaled back during the administration of former President George W. Bush. With Barack Obama in the White House it has been expanded exponentially. It is modeled on the “make work” programs of the 1930s, the Civilian Conservation Corps and others, which also had plentiful critics.

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It’s not an inexpensive program. In addition to overhead costs, young adults 18-24 receive a stipend of about $4,000 for 10 months’ work, and some qualify for higher education assistance.

There’s value, however, in the jobs the corps members provide to schools, communities and churches. During their time here, this class worked in Beulah Cemetery, cleared tornado debris in Yazoo City, built wheelchair ramps for residents and painted addresses on curbs among dozens of other projects.

The greater value, as Mikel Herrington, NCCC national director said at the ceremony, is character-building. Young people in search of purpose in their lives often stay committed to service wherever they go in life as a result of their AmeriCorps experiences.

That can make us a better nation, a stronger people. It’s worth the investment.

We congratulate the first graduates from the Vicksburg headquarters and we thank them for the work here and in other cities and states. AmeriCorps NCCC has found a good home here. We hope it’s a relationship that continues for many years to come.