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Letter to Representative Heller
buzzed, B&W

While I'm not a fan of the proposed budget from the House (especially the cuts to NPR and PBS), I'm most appalled by the suggestion to eliminate AmeriCorps. I served as an AmeriCorps*VISTA member for 2 years, and it's what brought me to Reno in the first place. It's been a pivotal part in forming me as a person, and I can't imagine where I would be without my AmeriCorps experience. I finally got around to submitting the letter beow to my representative:

Representative Heller,

I write to you this evening in regard to the recently proposed plan in the House Appropriations Committee that recommends large spending cuts in areas such as the environment, sustainable food programs, public transportation, and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

While I am saddened to know that such programs may be cut, I am most appalled by the recommendation to completely eliminate AmeriCorps.  This program annually engages 75,000 Americans to work in their communties for 10 months to a year, working on programs that address the environment, disaster and emergency preparedness, poverty, and many other areas that affect our society.

Personally, I graduated with an engineering degree from the University of Cincinnati, not sure of what I wanted to do with my life.  Instead of a career in engineering, I served as an AmeriCorps*VISTA in Springfield, MO in 2002-2003 working with 4-H, Boys and Girls Clubs, and many other community organizations to leverage resources and provide meaningful after-school activites for youth that utilized computers and technology.  The next year, I served as a VISTA Leader with the Prevention Resource Center, a state agency that utilized VISTA members throughout the state to build the capacity of non-profits that focused on preventing at-risk behaviors among youth.  After a brief stint as a state employee, I moved to Reno, NV, my current hometown, where I managed a VISTA program that focused on increasing enrollments in Nevada's SCHIP program, extending health coverage to one of our most vulnerable populations.

As my vast experience with AmeriCorps shows, I support the program wholeheartedly.  It has allowed me to live in places I never imagined of living, and pick up a breadth of life experience that I had never dreamed of.  I now have life long friends, who share my ideals of service and giving back to our nation in a way that would never have existed without serving in AmeriCorps.

AmeriCorps is relatively inexpensive at the federal level, and it's impact, both upon communities as well as individuals as myself, far outweighs the cost.  I entered national service as a cynical youth, doubting what I (or anyone else) could do for the world.  I have since gained an amazing appreciation for civic engagment, service, and the power of individuals.  While 10 years ago I would have laughed at anyone who cited Maragart Mead's famous quotation, I now wholly support the idea: "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has."

I strongly urge you to reject any budget that affects AmeriCorps negatively, as I would not be the productive member of society that I am today without it.

Ernie Chang