One thing you should know about me is that I am a proud Marylander—and more specifically, a proud Baltimorean. I co-founded Baltimore Corps because I understand the power of bringing Marylanders together, pushing for more equitable social and economic systems, and building connections that make a difference in communities.
At the same time, we know that some Maryland communities have been historically underserved and still face systemic barriers to overcoming poverty and accessing high-quality academic opportunities. When I accepted the nomination to join the AmeriCorps Board of Directors, I saw the potential to address these challenges. I also saw an incredible opportunity to connect diverse champions of national service in Maryland to like-minded projects across the country. Since then, I’ve seen the power of AmeriCorps to be a force multiplier as it expands programs’ impact and unites people from all walks of life though national service.
Maryland has a heart for service, and AmeriCorps is amplifying my state’s volunteer impact by investing in critical programs and resources. Last year, AmeriCorps invested more than $18 million in schools, food banks, homeless shelters, health clinics, youth centers, veterans’ facilities, and other nonprofit and faith-based organizations across Maryland. These investments empowered more than 5,200 Americans of all backgrounds to meet local needs and strengthen communities at 700 locations across the state.
Along the way, AmeriCorps programs are actively working alongside Marylanders to address community-specific issues, from college access to climate change to conservation. Here are a few examples:
- The Choice Program at University of Maryland, Baltimore County leverages AmeriCorps members in projects that help alleviate the impacts of poverty and improve college access for underserved youth.
- The Notre Dame Mission Volunteers Program, Inc. has more than 400 AmeriCorps members who provide small group and one-on-one instruction to underserved K-12 students and adults in 30 communities.
- The Maryland Department of Juvenile Justice Foster Grandparent Program connects older adults with youth offenders (ages 7-21) to cultivate supportive environments, jump start the school year, and create individualized care plans.
- Transform Mid-Atlantic creates a pipeline of mentoring services for under-resourced students, develops outreach for unemployed adult learners, and increases education access for first-generation families through more than 30 different projects with AmeriCorps members in the VISTA program deployed in Maryland, Delaware, and DC.
- Fund for Educational Excellence and Maryland Out of School Time engages AmeriCorps VISTA members to address disparities in youth development by strengthening before- and after-school programs in Maryland.
- Baltimore Community Health Corps is a new Baltimore Corps program and inaugural Public Health AmeriCorps grantee. Over the next three years, Baltimore Corps will recruit and train a total of 80 members to serve as community health navigators to improve health outcomes for residents and bolster the public health workforce in Maryland. Recently, I celebrated the 26 new AmeriCorps members serving in Baltimore Community Health Corps.
It’s great to see local and state elected leaders acting in states like Maryland to advance national service. Action in Maryland’s legislature includes enactment of legislation that strengthens Maryland Corps by expanding the Chesapeake Conservation Corps and the Maryland Conservation Corps and creating both a Maryland Civilian Climate Corps and a Maryland Historic Trades Corp.
Everyone Can Serve
Again, these are just a few of the many examples that show how service can help build bridges and cultivate connections. National service has proven to be one of our best tools for reaching untapped talent and strengthening our communities.
I have seen the incredible benefits of national service firsthand in Baltimore and across Maryland. And I know AmeriCorps is getting to work in your state, too. I urge you to find an opportunity to make your community and our country better and stronger through service.
Fagan Harris was confirmed to the AmeriCorps Board of Directors by the US Senate in December 2021. As the co-founder and CEO of Baltimore Corps, Harris has led his team to re-imagine recruiting, hiring, and career advancement for underestimated communities.