Submitted by dsong on
AmeriCorps Staff

Across the country, millions of students faced significant disruptions to their learning during the COVID-19 pandemic. These interruptions pulled back the curtain on the inequitable challenges facing our students, our educators, and our schools, and how they disproportionately impacted and under-resourced our communities.

In July 2022, AmeriCorps joined the US Department of Education and the Johns Hopkins Everyone Graduates Center to launch the National Partnership for Student Success, answering President Biden’s call to get 250,000 additional caring, supported adults into schools to address these challenges. Within a year of NPSS’ launch, an estimated 187,000 additional adults answered the president’s call. This July, we celebrate the second anniversary of the public-private partnership between the Biden-Harris administration and more than 190 diverse education and service organizations committed to providing the academic, mental health, and other support students need to succeed.

During NPSS’ second anniversary and AmeriCorps’ 30th anniversary, we shed light on two AmeriCorps members who were honored the President’s Volunteer Service Lifetime Achievement award for dedicating more than 5,000 service hours to helping students in Boston, Massachusetts, through the AARP Foundation Experience Corps program partner, Literations.

Becoming a Grandparent Through Service


AmeriCorps member Shirley

Shirley’s service journey with Literations started more than 20 years ago when she saw an advertisement in a community paper inviting volunteers to read with children. With no grandchildren of her own, Shirley decided to spend her time after retirement helping children and families in her community face challenges such as juggling multiple jobs. Shirley felt a strong calling to make a difference by supporting these children.

“My commitment to volunteering was cemented when I met a child who struggled to read and lacked basic alphabet knowledge but displayed remarkable common sense. Determined to help, I started from the basics with ABCs and witnessed the child progress to mastering the alphabet and spelling basic words by the end of the year,” said Shirley.

“Through this experience, I learned that my service is not only teaching children to read but also nurturing their self-esteem and understanding of relationships. I listen to their concerns about bullying and other challenges, helping foster a motivation to learn, excel, and seek approval.

“Tutoring is crucial in our schools today because many children, like that young student, are facing significant educational setbacks after the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted their learning. I saw how some missed foundational years, like kindergarten, affect these students. They lack basic skills in shapes, colors, and reading, entering higher grades unprepared and putting them behind their peers. National service plays a vital role in bridging these gaps, providing essential support to help children catch up and succeed academically. And for older national service members like myself, volunteering provides a sense of purpose and fulfillment. It keeps me actively engaged with my community, and it’s a motivation to give my best to these students because, through service, you see firsthand our efforts change lives.”

Connecting with Children to Support Their Growth Beyond Education


AmeriCorps member Bill

In the South End of Boston, Mass., AmeriCorps member Bill has served more than 10,935 hours so far, helping students become proficient readers. Bill's mentorship of other volunteers has also been crucial in developing a strong and effective team. His remarkable dedication and leadership have made a difference in the community.

“I choose to serve with AmeriCorps because I understand the importance of connecting with young students who need the support,” said Bill.

“I remember a cantankerous boy in a younger grade who couldn't engage with any of the volunteers in the classroom. So, I decided to take the ‘Dad’ approach. I took the boy for a walk, away from the group, to tell him why reading is so important. I explained that he’d need to know how to read to get his dream job or to drive. But no matter the examples I shared, the boy did not relate, saying, ‘I don’t wanna get a job. I don’t need to learn to drive.’

“He then said, ‘My dad’s in jail, my older brother’s in jail, everybody in my family is in jail. So I’m gonna go to jail and won’t need any of that stuff.’ This was the moment I realized that literacy effort is not just teaching these kids to read. It’s about connecting on a personal level before tackling literacy challenges. The literacy process won't be effective without developing a relationship with someone.

“After serving for more than 18 years, enduring relationships forged through the program are the greatest reward, especially when I run into these students years later. I once had a young man taller than me come up and say, ‘Hi, Mr. Bill, remember me? You read with me six years ago and it was good experience.’

“Tutoring and volunteering are especially crucial today. Many of the students at my school come from single-parent homes, and the relationships volunteers build can have lasting impacts. As tutors and mentors to these students, setting high expectations is crucial. AmeriCorps members and Experience Corps volunteers provide trusted support, helping to change mindsets and build confidence in these children. Because the more supportive relationships a child has, the more likely they are to believe in their ability to learn and succeed.”

Addressing School’s Greatest Need Nationwide

For more than 30 years, AmeriCorps has focused on providing the people power to support where the need is greatest. Like Shirley and Bill, hundreds of thousands of AmeriCorps members and AmeriCorps Seniors volunteers serve as caring adults in and out of schools to help educators and families address critical educational and mental health challenges in our schools.

Learn more about how AmeriCorps, the Department of Education, and national service partners, like the AARP Foundation, are helping our students thrive in and out of school across the country.