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    Executive Summary of 1:1 Interviews with AmeriCorps Veterans, 2010

    The Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) values initiatives and programs that engage veterans and military families, grow a knowledge base of how national service can best meet the needs of veterans and military families, support efforts that engage veterans who want to continue service in new ways at home, and promote effective collaboration with our veterans, military family members, and veteran-serving organizations. To support CNCS in this effort, the National Service Inclusion Project (NSIP), a CNCS training and technical assistance provider on disability inclusion, in collaboration with the Center for Technical Assistance and Training (CTAT) at Denver Options and Operation TBI Freedom (OTF) at Denver Options. This initiative will identify promising practices, products, and delivery strategies to enhance the capacity. Most importantly, veterans, including those who are current or former AmeriCorps or other national service volunteers, will inform this work extensively. Information from this work and related products will be made widely available to veterans’ groups, national service programs, and the disability community to guide the practice, policies, and procedures of service programs as they recruit and support veterans with disabilities.

    The following narrative summarizes seven interviews*, conducted during 2010, with veterans who are current AmeriCorps members or alums. Of the seven, five have a disability. Of the five, one did not disclose the nature of his/her disability, one had a "traumatic disability" that he/she did not want to discuss, one has post traumatic stress syndrome (PTSD) and physical disabilities unrelated to the military, one has a head trauma as a result of being in the military, and one has PTSD that has not been officially diagnosed along with a disability that has been diagnosed through the Veterans Administration.

    Themes:

    Common themes emerged from the conversations. All interviewees expressed a passion to help people, including Veterans. Many described how AmeriCorps provides them the opportunity to get back into the workforce—additional skill sets are developed, it is a great addition to their resume, and they believe it is impressive to potential employers. Interviewees articulated that service and volunteerism is a satisfying and structured opportunity to serve our country in another way, giving back to the community and committing to someone else’s well-being, life, happiness, and education, while making an impact on others’ lives and helping the "underserved" to help themselves. Through AmeriCorps, these veterans felt a sense of belonging, regaining their identity. AmeriCorps gets them out of their comfort zone, stretching and learning a great deal. AmeriCorps promotes change while making our country and the world better equipped to meet actual needs of others.

    Suggestions to Engage Other Vets in National Service, including AmeriCorps:

    When speaking with Veterans to engage them in National and Community Service, the Veterans we spoke with suggested that we stress the following:

    The following is a quote from one of the interviewees, an anonymous veteran who served in AmeriCorps:

    "My experience as a volunteer in the AmeriCorps program has given me the will to get out of bed every day. It has given me the education and the knowledge to understand my disability and it gives me a purpose in life. If you don’t have a purpose in life, it’s hard to get out of bed every morning."

    For more information please contact:

    Paula Sotnik, Director
    National Service Inclusion Project
    Institute for Community Inclusion,
    University of Massachusetts Boston
    888-491-0326 (toll-free voice and TTY)
    617-287-4343 (direct line)
    paula.sotnik@umb.edu
    www.serviceandinclusion.org

    The National Service Inclusion Project (NSIP) is a training and technical assistance provider on disability inclusion, under a cooperative agreement from the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS).

    * Interviews were conducted by Joanne E. Cohen, Organizational Consultant, CTAT, and liaison to NSIP.



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    ©The National Service Inclusion Project (NSIP) is a training and technical assistance provider on disability inclusion. NSIP partners with the Association on University Centers on Disability, National Council on Independent Living, Association on Higher Education and Disability and National Down Syndrome Congress to build connections between disability organizations and all CNCS grantees, including national directs, to increase the participation of people with disabilities in national service.