Maryland Governor Wes Moore has made service a top priority for his term, signing an executive order that created the Maryland Department of Civic and Service Innovation on his first full day in office.

While details of his service year option for high school graduates are still being worked out, many existing service year programs in Maryland, nationally, and worldwide allow individuals to gain experience and give back to their communities in the way Moore envisions.

Maryland Gov. Moore testifies in front of the House Appropriations Committee on Feb. 21 in favor of HB546, which would establish a Service Year Option in the state of Maryland. Credit: Michael Charles / Capital News Service

One such program is the Service Year Alliance, whose board chair, retired General Stanley McChrystal, joined Moore for his testimony in front of the Senate’s Education, Energy, and the Environment Committee on February 22.

Service Year Alliance runs an online website connecting young people looking to serve their communities with paid opportunities. According to Kristen Bennett, CEO of the Alliance, participants can end up helping clean up from natural disasters, tutoring, rebuilding homes, helping with conservation projects, and many other opportunities.

“One of the things that we are always trying to put front and center is that there’s not one way to do a service year; there really are a lot of different opportunities,” Bennett said..

Maryland’s Serving Every Region Through Vocational Exploration Act of 2023, or HB546, establishes and funds the Service Year Option and has bipartisan support. Under the act, participants would be placed in a service job for at least 30 hours a week, paid $15 an hour by their employer, and receive mentorship and job training. The new department is in charge of the design and administration of the program, as well as creating a statewide network of participants and promoting the program to potential participants and employers.

“This bill will provide young people of every background and of every jurisdiction all throughout the state the opportunity to serve our state while also gaining real-world perspectives, skills, and experience,” Moore said.

Other organizations dedicated to offering service opportunities include AmeriCorps, the Peace Corps, Teach for America, and Report for America, among others. Worldwide, organizations such as the Republic of the Philippines’ National Youth Commission and South Africa’s National Youth Service Programme aim to help combat issues affecting youth in their respective countries.

Moore testified at both the House hearing in the Appropriations Committee on February 21 and the Senate Education, Energy, and the Environment Committee on February 22. Despite some concerns, Moore remains committed to making Maryland a state of service.

“Service will help to save us because it will help us get to know each other better,” Moore said. “Service will give each person an opportunity to actually spend time with others who have a shared and a common understanding and who make sure that their fingerprints are on the future of this state.”

“I believe deeply that all the challenges that our state and all the challenges that our nation are facing, that it is going to be service that is going to help to save us,” Moore told the House committee in his testimony. “From the first day of my administration, I have worked to make Maryland a state of service, and it is a mission that all of us collectively are on.”

David M. Higgins II, Publisher/EditorEditor-in-Chief

David M. Higgins II is an award-winning journalist passionate about uncovering the truth and telling compelling stories. Born in Baltimore and raised in Southern Maryland, he has lived in several East...

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