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October 27, 2000

First Lady Commends AmeriCorps Volunteers for Giving Year of Service

CHICAGO -- First Lady Lura Lynn Ryan today presided over the inauguration ceremony for more than 350 AmeriCorps volunteers offering praise, encouragement, and gratitude for the positive influence they will have on the children they will serve.

Mrs. Ryan spoke of the Dr. Seuss Story, "Oh, the Places You'll Go," as she addressed the group. "It has a powerful message for you as you begin this journey with Americorps," Mrs. Ryan said. "At times, you will know exactly where you are going, other times you will have to go with the flow but no matter what, you will be making a difference," said Mrs. Ryan.

AmeriCorps is a national service program that provides Americans age 17 and older the opportunity to serve their communities. The program was built around two key ideas, one modeled after the Peace Corps and the other taken from the G.I. Bill. AmeriCorps gives Americans of all ages an opportunity to serve their nation and their communities, and second, AmeriCorps also provides modest but important help with the cost of the volunteers' education.

Many of the new volunteers will work on The Land of Lincoln Americorps program, part of Mrs. Ryan's Futures for Kids initiative. This newly expanded program will provide tutors and mentors to students in grades K-3 in central and northern Illinois.

"The Land of Lincoln Americorps program is an example of what we are trying to accomplish with Futures for Kids, "said Mrs. Ryan. "Futures is all about bringing people and programs together and taking programs that are working in communities to other communities throughout the state. We were made aware that this program was showing positive results for children and had relevance to the outcomes of Futures for Kids. We expanded it to include more children and start earlier."

Since AmeriCorps began in 1994, 190,000 members have participated in the program. These dedicated Americans are tackling our most pressing needs, from illiteracy to crime to poverty. In Illinois, AmeriCorps is administered by the Illinois Department of Human Services (DHS) and overseen by the Illinois Commission on Volunteerism and Community Service (ICVCS).

Overall, AmeriCorps members have given a year of their lives in more than 40,000 communities; recruited, trained and supervised more than 2.5 million volunteers; tutored and mentored more than 4 million children; organized after-school programs for more than 1 million at-risk youth; and helped build more than 11,000 homes.

"It is no coincidence that you are being sworn-in for service the day before 'Make a Difference Day.' You will be making Illinois a better place through your service and willingness to get things done. Think of all the places we will all go when we have a generation of children who grow up healthy, safe and educated," added Mrs, Ryan.


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