Governor Deval Patrick Signs Law Creating Commonwealth Corps

Governor Deval Patrick signed a bill on Nov. 27, 2007 creating the Commonwealth Corps, a program that creates a state youth service corps permitting Massachusetts citizens to work on improving and rebuilding their communities through service.  This was the first bill submitted by Gov. Patrick when he took office in January, 2007.  Civic Engagement is one of three priority areas for the Patrick Administration that was ushered into power on one of the largest grassroots political campaigns ever mounted in Massachusetts.

“Massachusetts has a strong history of community service, volunteerism, and civic action and I am proud that the Commonwealth Corps will become a new chapter in that history,” said Governor Patrick. “Through volunteerism, citizens have the ability to alter lives and communities while also experiencing the pride that comes with such service. I am excited about this new opportunity and look forward to the work ahead.”

The Commonwealth Corps will start with 250 corps members and aims to rise to 1,000 corps members within the first 5 years. Corps “[me]mbers will dedicate at least one year of service to a nonprofit organization, civic initiative, or public entity, providing direct service to people or communities in need….Members of the Commonwealth Corps will provide direct service including but not limited to teaching in after-school programs, mentoring underprivileged youth, assisting the elderly and cleaning up parks and beaches. Members will also recruit and organize additional volunteers to meet urgent community needs. ”  The projects will be locally managed and led.

“In a time of constrained resources, the Commonwealth Corps will tap a deep reservoir of talent and idealism to tackle pressing priorities in our communities,” said Eric Schwarz, president and CEO of Citizen Schools, a Boston-based national non-profit focused on afterschool programs. “One of the best things about the Commonwealth Corps will be its ability to mobilize tens of thousands of additional citizen volunteers to support student learning and solve other pressing problems.”

‘[T]he legislation also creates a pilot Commonwealth Student Corps, a program developed to expand opportunities for students interested in service learning opportunities’ in order to build on the research that shows how service learning (learning through curricular-tied service) improves student learning. The program will match students at up to 5 public colleges or universities with service opportunities dovetailing with their educational area of concentration.

The Corps will consist of members from diverse backgrounds who are 18 years or older, from high school-age students, to mid-career workers to retirees. Corps members will serve in a part-time or full-time capacity.   The Commonwealth Corps will be overseen by a newly-created Commonwealth Corps Commission.

Massachusetts has middling civic engagement levels that are disappointing given the levels of education in Massachusetts, and Governor Patrick and Lieutenant Governor Murray aim to try to change that which they announced recently at the Massachusetts Civic Engagement Summit.

See press release here.

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