As a teenager, Sherman Williams experienced the powerful difference one person could make in someone’s life. For him, it was a teacher. Now he is using his expertise in business to help people from low- and moderate-income households achieve financial stability.
Since service is part of who I am, I knew I had to go to the recent Aspen Institute’s Franklin Project Summit on National Service in Gettysburg, Pa. I was one of many AmeriCorps alumni there who believed there should be a “bridge year of service” for graduating high school and college students. In my opinion, this opportunity should be open to anyone.
With spectators clapping blue thunder sticks together, jumping out of their seats, cheering for their favorite teams, the gathering looked more like a pep rally than a bid for nonprofit grants. The pitches fueled the excitement – four innovative programs attracting volunteers and serving communities in creative ways.
When Alexis Werner was 15, her stepfather returned from combat duty in Afghanistan suffering from posttraumatic stress disorder. While Werner empathized with him, she was confused and distressed to see someone she had known to be a strong man suffering from severe psychological problems. Werner says that for her, the experience was initially scary and depressing. A high school counselor told her to try to find “the positive” in what she had experienced. She discovered the positive side in volunteer service.