ANNAPOLIS, Md. — Maryland's new governor revealed a plan that would let high school graduates opt to take a year off before college or starting their careers to serve their communities. Gov. Wes Moore says it will make Maryland the only state in the country offering the option.
Moore talked about the idea Wednesday in his first State of the State address. He said he will work with legislators to pass the proposed "Serve Act."
“The Serve Act will create a service year option," Moore said. "While our young people give back, they also lay the foundation for their future success through job training and mentorship programs, and create a lifelong habit of service to our state -- something we so desperately need."
According to a statement from the governor's office, the "Maryland Service Year Option" would apply for anyone within their first two years of graduating high school in Maryland to do a paid year of service with a nonprofit organization. Participants will receive mentoring and career development support to help them identify their future path, and will be compensated at a minimum of $15 per hour. Opportunities are determined by partnerships but examples might include tutoring and education work or programs like the Chesapeake Conservation Corps that support environmental restoration among other options.
"Whether they’re preparing our state for climate change, tutoring our students, or caring for the sick, young people should have the option to perform important service today and build a foundation for our shared future," Moore said "This is the first effort of its kind in the nation, and Maryland will lead the way.”
One of Moore’s first executive orders after being sworn in as governor was the creation of Maryland's Department of Service and Civic Innovation, with an $18 million budget and 18 state employees to run the agency promoting service and volunteerism in the state.
An existing state website to coordinate volunteerism says the state will “allocate resources to AmeriCorps programs." AmeriCorps is an existing national program founded during the Clinton administration that matches volunteers with service projects that earn them a modest stipend and tuition awards for future education.
"If we are going to execute on this vision, if we are going to make this state work again, we need people willing to serve," Moore said in his speech.
Maryland students are currently required to earn community service credits to graduate high school.
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