Serve America Act: Time for Boomers to Step Up

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The House has passed the Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act which, besides providing more volunteer opportunities for middle school and high school students, recognizes baby boomers' enormous potential for civic engagement. The bill expands existing services such as AmeriCorps , which will now have money reserved for enrolling adults over 55. It also creates new service corps focused on education, health care, energy and veterans.

Older adults (meaning us) will be encouraged to take both volunteer and paid non-profit positions. The New York Times quotes John Gomperts, president of the nonprofit research group Civic Ventures, "It represents an attitudinal shift in Congress -- an important recognition that national service isn't just for the young." Well, we know that!

The bill includes the following:

Expands Service Opportunities for Older Americans and Public-Private Partnerships

* Creates two new fellowships to engage social entrepreneurs, boomers and retirees, the private sector and Americans from all generations into service. Older Americans will be allowed to transfer their awards to a child, foster child or grandchild to help them pay for college.

1. ServeAmerica Fellowships: ServeAmerica Fellows are individuals who propose their own plans for serving in their communities to address national needs and are matched up with a service sponsor.

2. Silver Scholarships and Encore Fellowships: These programs offer Americans, age 55 or older, post-career service opportunities as well as entrance into new careers in the public or nonprofit sector. Silver Scholars will be able to earn up to $1,000 in exchange for 350 hours of service.

There are many more provisions to encourage boomers to become involved; you can read a more detailed summary of the bill on

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