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Kevin Jennings

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Duh

Posted: 06/24/2012 7:23 pm

Sometimes you come across ideas that are definite "no-brainers." The latest example is www.OneMillionNewJobs.org.

As you may know, youth un- and under-employment is an epidemic in America. A third of high school graduates today are not in college or are unemployed -- the highest level since the Great Depression of the thirties. More than 1.3 million young people will graduate from college this year and find themselves unable to get a job. In my lifetime (and I am almost 50), it's never been a worse time to be young.

We face unprecedented challenges in America today: failing schools, crumbling infrastructure, inadequate health care, pervasive hunger (one in six Americans struggle with food insecurity)... the list goes on. Meanwhile literally millions of young people who could be contributing to society -- who have the skills and the drive and the ambition to make a difference -- are doing absolutely nothing.

The solution?

Duh.

Put these young people to work.

Today's youth want to help tackle these problems. Over the past two years around a million applications have been turned away from AmeriCorps, the federally-funded national service program that gives people of all ages and backgrounds the opportunities to get to work, like making their community safer, giving a child a second chance, or helping protect the environment by serving with local and national nonprofit groups. Today's young people want to get to work and make a difference. We just aren't giving them the opportunity to do so.

The One Million New Jobs campaign -- recently launched by ServiceNation's ServeNext Initiative and Our Time -- is asking our elected leaders to give those one million young people a chance to make a difference. The sad fact is that they already promised to employ a big chunk of those young people, and they aren't keeping that promise.

In 2009, the Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act was passed with broad bipartisan congressional support and signed into law by President Obama, promising a massive expansion of service opportunities for this generation. By now AmeriCorps was supposed to have 140,000 annual members, well on its way to the eventual goal of 250,000. Instead AmeriCorps is stalled at 80,000 members, essentially the same number as before the Serve America Act was enacted, and the House of Representatives is trying for the third consecutive year to zero out the program altogether.

This is insane. When we confronted a similar crisis in the '30s, the federal government created a host of service programs (like the Civilian Conservation Corps) and put young people like my dad to work making America better. We should be doing the same thing now. Instead, while critical problems persist in our country, we're wasting the skills and energies of an entire generation of young people, a generation that wants to make a difference.

Let's give them that chance: Sign the petition now at www.OneMillionNewJobs.org.

 
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