For Immediate Release - November 27, 2007

Governor Patrick Signs Bill Establishing Commonwealth Corps, Encouraging Service

Commonwealth Corps members will rebuild communities, engage citizens

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BOSTON-Tuesday, November 27, 2007-Before joining with members of his staff and others to sort donations at the Greater Boston Food Bank, Governor Deval Patrick today signed into legislation a bill creating the Commonwealth Corps, a program that will allow residents across Massachusetts to improve and rebuild their communities through service.

"Massachusetts has a strong history of community service, volunteerism, and civic action and I am proud that the Commonwealth Corps will become a new chapter in that history," said Governor Patrick. "Through volunteerism, citizens have the ability to alter lives and communities while also experiencing the pride that comes with such service. I am excited about this new opportunity and look forward to the work ahead."

The legislation signed today was the first bill filed by the Governor after taking office in January. By establishing a new model for large-scale, locally-managed service projects, Massachusetts will lead the nation in civic engagement.

The Commonwealth Corps will include 250 individuals in its first year, with a goal of expanding to 1,000 members over the next five years. Members will dedicate at least one year of service to a nonprofit organization, civic initiative, or public entity, providing direct service to people or communities in need.

"Commonwealth Corps acknowledges and promotes the benefits of volunteerism," Senate President Therese Murray (D-Plymouth) said. "It creates an active and renewable resource to help communities in need while teaching participants the valuable lesson of civic responsibility."

"Governor Patrick made volunteerism a priority as he took office and he should be congratulated for the effort put forth to create the Commonwealth Corps," said Speaker Salvatore F. DiMasi (D-Boston). "This new law will help foster the true spirit of volunteerism and civic engagement that are hallmarks of our Commonwealth and the members of the House of Representatives were pleased to work with the Governor to advance this initiative."

Members of the Commonwealth Corps will provide direct service including but not limited to teaching in after-school programs, mentoring underprivileged youth, assisting the elderly and cleaning up parks and beaches. Members will also recruit and organize additional volunteers to meet urgent community needs.

"Community service has always been a catalyst for change in Massachusetts. Through service, citizens become active participants in their community and transform the lives of others as well as their own," said Senator Marc R. Pacheco (D-Taunton). "Massachusetts has a long history of civic involvement and the Commonwealth Corps will strengthen this practice, encouraging citizens to work together to build stronger, healthier communities."

"In a time of constrained resources, the Commonwealth Corps will tap a deep reservoir of talent and idealism to tackle pressing priorities in our communities," said Eric Schwarz, president and CEO of Citizen Schools, a Boston-based national non-profit focused on afterschool programs. "One of the best things about the Commonwealth Corps will be its ability to mobilize tens of thousands of additional citizen volunteers to support student learning and solve other pressing problems."

In addition to the tremendous benefits of citizen service, research shows that community service-learning helps to meet the goal of education reform by improving student learning, enhancing student performance, and promoting the ethic of service. Therefore, the legislation also creates a pilot Commonwealth Student Corps, a program developed to expand opportunities for students interested in service learning opportunities. The program will be administered initially by no more than five public colleges or universities. Participating students will be connected with service opportunities that complement their respective area of study.

The Corps will consist of members from diverse backgrounds who are 18 years or older, from high school-age students, to mid-career workers to retirees. Corps members will serve in a part-time or full-time capacity.

The governor will appoint members to the Commonwealth Corps Commission who will oversee the work of Corps members.

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