In 2006, I had an extraordinary thing happen. I became an AmeriCorps VISTA member, giving a year of my life to national service working in northern Ohio on hunger relief programs and access to public benefits. I am a proud VISTA alum, now working in Columbus at the Women's Business Center of Ohio, a program of the Economic & Community Development Institute.

My experience as a VISTA was life-changing, and I am appalled and disappointed that President Donald Trump's budget proposes a complete elimination of AmeriCorps and other programs operated by the Corporation for National and Community Service. The Women's Business Center has proudly hosted AmeriCorps VISTA members since 2012. I understand the value of national service members, having seen from both sides the impact they provide.

National service was not just a meaningful opportunity for me to give back to my community while gaining valuable career experience. It's also meaningful to the low-income Ohioans directly affected by the members and the nonprofit organizations that were able to do more good. National service leads to innovative solutions to problems facing local communities, from starting sustainable community gardens to launching entrepreneurship education programs.

Our communities are grappling with complex issues: poverty, unequal access to food, barriers to employment, and health disparities, to name a staggering few. In return for a living stipend set at the poverty level and an education award to help pay down student loan debt, national service members pour themselves full-time into creating real change in their communities.

I encourage our members of Congress to renew our country's investment in these longstanding, bipartisan programs. 

Jessica May

Columbus