AmeriCorps, BCDI celebrates its members on National Service Recognition Day
By: Evelyn McNeal
The AmeriCorps is a network of local, state, and national service programs that connect more than 75,000 adults of all ages and backgrounds with service opportunities in their community. Together, they get things done by strengthening the community, making a difference and igniting the spirit of volunteerism.
Amber Walker is the AmeriCorps program director at Black Child Development Institute in Greensboro and the Spirit of Excellence program. She said the BCDI was founded in 1978 by Greensboro native Sarah Herbin, and the BCDI in Greensboro is one of 20 affiliates of the National Black Child Development Institute. Walker said Herbin was dedicated to giving back to the youth of Greensboro and asked the question, “Who if not us will advocate for our children?”
For 37 years, Walker said that the BCDI fulfilled their commitment to helping the community by recruiting, screening and training members.
“The motto of AmeriCorps is ‘getting things done’ specifically for the community,” she said. “Our members come in with a desire to influence a life, change a community, or build something up, and they do that throughout the year.”
Walker said Black Child Development is a program designed to close the academic and opportunity gap in Greensboro by providing one-on-one tutoring and in-school support at a very low cost to the families. The program trains, and matches members to serve as tutors to at-risk students from Title I public elementary or charter schools with help from AmeriCorps and the Spirit of Excellence members, who work with BCDI staff throughout the school year. Walker said these members include about 20 students that tutor twice a week for an hour each time.
“Over the summer, they provide a Freedom School, which is basically a literacy-based summer program to prevent summer slide,” Walker said. “Summer slide is when kids forget or don’t practice the things they learned in the grade they just finished.”
National Service Recognition Day took place on April 2 to acknowledge and thank AmeriCorps members for their hard work. Walker said the recognition also helps spread awareness of the need for people to give back in communities across the country.
“It was really a chance to give them a shout out and let them know we appreciate them, we see them, and that the work they do is valid and inspiring,” Walker said.
Walker said the BCDI received a Proclamation signed by the Mayor recognizing that Greensboro acknowledges National Service Recognition Day on April 2. Walker said she is also waiting to hear back from the Greensboro City Council about receiving a certificate of recognition for the Spirit of Excellence Team. Walker said with more awareness about the program and service opportunities, AmeriCorps and the BCDI can make an even larger impact in the community.
“There is so much need in the Triad– from helping combat homelessness to helping at-risk youth,” Walker said.
The staff is mostly composed of college students from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and North Carolina A&T State University. Walker said these students are given a modest stipend and an education reward, upon the completion of the program.
“[The members] serve as a role model, and another caring adult in their life in the daily afterschool and in-school program,” Walker said.
She said the students in the program serve as tutors and role models who interact hands-on with the students they tutor. They volunteer at the Greensboro Recreation center located on West Gate City Boulevard as well as other locations in the Triad.
The students work very well with the children and are passionate about making a change in their community. The children are tutored from first through fifth grade, and the program also serves children in kindergarten through 12th grade. Broderick Johnson is an afterschool tutor with AmeriCorps and BCDI. He said the reason why he joined the program is to get rid of the stigma that African American children are “bad and can’t be taught.”
Some of the challenges Johnson has faced working with AmeriCorps and BCDI are trying to get other people to believe that the program makes a difference. He is one of the thousands of AmeriCorps members who are passionate about making a change in their communities.
“I recommend that other people sign up to work with AmeriCorps because you change someone’s life,” Johnson said.
For more information about AmeriCorps and the Black Child Development Institute, visit the websites www.blackchilddevelopment.org and www.nationalservice.gov/programs/americorps/what-americorps.