Programs To Share $63 Million Through ‘G.I. Bill for Service’

By Millicent Lawton — June 17, 1992 6 min read

School-based service programs and other community-service projects nationwide will share $63.1 million in the first round of grants awarded by the federal Commission on National and Community Service.

The projects--154 in all--will receive between $7,000 and $3.5 million each in mostly one-year grants, officials of the 21-member bipartisan commission said in announcing the awards last week.

The grants are being made under the National and Community Service Act of 1990, which authorized the commission to provide money, training, and technical assistance to states and communities to develop and expand service opportunities.

The funding will be divided among a mix of new programs and existing ones undertaking expansion or change, officials said.

The programs fall into four categories: service-learning efforts in public schools, community-service endeavors in colleges and universities, youth-corps groups that offer community service and job training, and national-service demonstration models for youths age 17 and older.

“This is a big day as far as I’m concerned for the concept of national service,’' Senator Sam Nunn, Democrat of Georgia, told a press conference here.

“I call this the G.I. Bill for community service,’' he added.

Mr. Nunn, an early proponent of the concept of national service for young Americans, said he hoped the commission’s grants would “awaken a new spirit of civic obligation among the people of our country.’' He said he would like the program to mobilize young people to help meet the country’s critical needs and to promote upward mobility by giving its participants a better chance for education and skills training.

“The overall goal of the commission,’' Catherine Milton, its executive director, said at the press conference, “is to make available meaningful community-service opportunities to everyone regardless of their income, race, or background.’'

“We want to weave community service into the fabric of American life by involving thousands of institutions, both public and private, in collaborative efforts,’' she said.

Evaluation, Replication

The commission accepted about 30 percent of the grant applications it received, turning away nearly 350 of more than 500 proposals.

Successful applications, Ms. Milton said in an interview, met four criteria: high quality, including a proven track record for the program; replicability; innovation; and potential for continuing without federal funding.

“The extent to which these programs can be imitated by others will become the best measure of their success,’' Gregg Petersmeyer, the director of the White House Office of National Service, told the press conference.

While most of the grants are for one year, some of the proposals in the category of national-service demonstration models are two-year grants, Ms. Milton noted.

The short duration of most of the grants will allow the commission to see how well the projects proceed and whether other, different proposals might be funded instead in the second year, she said.

All of the federal grants require some matching effort, said Shirley Sachi Sagawa, a vice chairman of the commission and a former Senate staff aide who worked on the authorizing act.

School-based programs must match 10 percent of their grant amounts (20 percent and 30 percent in the second and third years, if the awards are extended), Ms. Sagawa said. The conservation and youth-service corps must match 25 percent of their grants, she said, while colleges must raise money equivalent to half of the grants they receive.

The states hosting national-service demonstration models must only split evenly with the commission the grant money for the participant’s post-service benefit--a total of $2,000 per year of service for part-time workers and $5,000 a year for those who served full time, according to Terry Russell, the general counsel to the commission.

Such benefits will likely take the form of a tuition scholarship for participants, he said.

The commission is also putting heavy emphasis for all its grant recipients on thorough program evaluation, Ms. Milton said.

“We want to be able to demonstrate what works,’' she said, “because if we’re going to build a national movement, we’ve got to have proof that it does work so we can sell these ideas to every local community, to every foundation, to every corporation.’'

Eight ‘Leader States’

In the school-based grant category, called Serve-America, 47 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico will divide $16.3 million for service-learning projects for children from kindergarten through high school.

In most cases, state education agencies will determine which local schools and communities will receive subgrants.

For example, in New York City, high-school students will work with junior-high students to train them in racial understanding, including prejudice prevention and conflict resolution, Ms. Milton said.

And public-school students in Washington who have been the recipients of volunteer services such as tutoring, she said, will be asked to themselves become tutors.

Eight of the states receiving Serve-America grants are designated “leader states,’' recognized for proposals that “hold especially significant promise’’ for the development of school-based community service.

The leader states are Colorado, the District of Columbia, Maryland, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Vermont, and West Virginia.

Those states will share an additional $1.2 million to speed the expansion of their proposals.

Ms. Milton said representatives from the programs in those states will work closely with the commission as “field marshals’’ to develop model curricula and to train teachers elsewhere.

“The theory being those running programs are in the best position’’ to explain to others what works, Ms. Milton said.

Out-of-School Youths

Projects in the category of conservation and youth-service corps--designed for out-of-school youths--will share $21.5 million.

Such corps in 25 states, 5 operated by American Indian tribes, bring together teenagers and young adults from diverse backgrounds to work on service projects in such areas as education, the environment, and public safety.

In exchange for their service, the corps members receive living allowances and earn scholarships.

The program will offer a service-learning curriculum, setting it apart from those that focus solely on job training, officials said.

In Los Angeles, a $1-million commission grant will enable the Los Angeles Youth Corps to open satellite centers in areas affected by the recent rioting and to recruit new members from the various minority group communities hardhit by the violence.

The new recruits will then lead efforts to rebuild burned-out buildings and plant community gardens in vacant lots.

National Models

Another one-third of the commission’s grant money--$20.1 million--will go to developing seven demonstration models, six of them new, for a national-service program geared to young people 17 and older.

The existing model is the Boston-based City Year program, a privately funded urban youth corps, which will expand four-fold with its grant of $3.5 million a year for two years--the largest single grant awarded by the commission.

In addition, 59 grants totaling $5.2 million will help 175 higher-education institutions pursue community-service efforts.

For example, Ms. Milton said, a program at the City University of New York will recruit students to work with residents of low-income housing projects to plan economic-development projects.

A version of this article appeared in the June 17, 1992 edition of Education Week as Programs To Share $63 Million Through ‘G.I. Bill for Service’