Number of federal military service academies: 5
Number of federal civilian service academies: 0
One does not need to be a pacifist to find something wrong with those numbers. Indeed, a growing movement of people thinks there is a glaring need for our nation to build a U.S. Public Service Academy. Sojourners has officially endorsed the effort, joining a broad array of service organizations such as Catholic Charities USA, the National Urban League, and the National Peace Corps Association.
Recent studies show that more students than ever emerge from high school wanting to serve their country and their community. But they often find themselves freshman year on campuses that are indifferent, if not outright hostile, to such high-minded ideals. The five military academies offer opportunities for service, but many students (because of conscience or preference) want to serve in the civilian world, in fields such as education or health care or the environment. Where can students go to get the kind of intense, service-oriented education that will mold them into citizen leaders, the way West Point and the military academies develop military leaders?
The answer is that such a college does not exist – yet.
That is why we must build the U.S. Public Service Academy. The Academy will be a completely different kind of college, one that gives students a chance to do something real with their lives and become part of a movement to make this country better. Modeled on the military service academies, the Academy will recruit top students from across the country and offer them full scholarships to pursue a rigorous undergraduate education focused on leadership development and public service. In return, Academy graduates will spend five years serving their nation by working in the public sector at the local, state, and national levels.
The grassroots movement to build the Academy has succeeded in getting Sen. Clinton and Sen. Specter to introduce the Public Service Academy Act (S. 960). Reps. Jim Moran and Chris Shays introduced the same bill in the House (H.R. 1671). Learn how you can help build this new college by visiting: http://www.uspublicserviceacademy.org.
Chris Myers Asch is a Teach for America/AmeriCorps alumnus and the co-founder of the U.S. Public Service Academy.