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Campus & Community

At UMD, Governor Launches First-in-the-Nation Public Service Year Program

Service Year Option to Connect High School Graduates to Service Opportunities—Including Through Campus

By Maggie Haslam

smiling man on stage in front of giant maryland flag points at audience

Maryland Governor Wes Moore introduces the state's inaugural cohort of Service Year Option members on Friday at Reckord Armory, kicking off the nation's first state-backed service year program.

Photos by Stephanie S. Cordle

Maryland Gov. Wes Moore came to the University of Maryland on Friday to kick off the nation’s first public service year program for high school graduates.

Service Year Option will help meet community needs by enabling service opportunities—from legal assistance and conservation to veteran’s services and public safety—through partnerships with organizations across the state, including UMD.

Moore introduced the inaugural cohort of Service Year Option members at an event at Reckord Armory, along with Lt. Gov. Aruna Miller, Department of Service and Civic Innovation Secretary Paul Monteiro ’02, and university President Darryll J. Pines. Welcoming the cohort were the Mighty Sound of Maryland Marching Band and Maryland Dance Team, along with First Lady Dawn Moore ’97, cabinet members, legislators, program host employers and member families.

“You are the inspirations, you raised your hand to serve,” Moore told the inaugural cohort on Friday. “You give us hope, you let us know it’s possible; that if we’re willing to put in the work, there is nothing that stands in the way. When the future of the state is being determined and the story is being written, we want your hands all over that pen. We want your name on the cover.”

Service Year Option provides pathways for high school graduates to serve their communities while preparing them for employment, additional service and continuing education. The inaugural class will serve in organizations that align with their areas of interest, including nonprofits, public agencies, for-profit companies and academic institutions.

“I’m just so happy to be part of this amazing program and have the opportunity to grow professionally,” said Charles Richardson Jr. a 19-year-old from Prince George’s County who will be working with UMD’s Initiative for Veteran Lifelong Leadership. “I think this will be a great experience to learn, but also to help such an important, underserved community.”

Service Year Option joins Maryland Corps, a new service opportunity for people of all ages that partners with Maryland’s Historically Black Colleges and Universities and community colleges. Both programs are administered through the new Maryland Department of Service and Civic Innovation, which was established in April through the Serving Every Region Through Vocational Exploration Act, or SERVE Act. The department aims to boost civic participation to meet community needs, enhance workforce development and enable preparedness for both higher and vocational education.

Members receive a minimum of $15/hour for their service commitment. Following completion of their service year, participants in both programs will earn $6,000 as either a direct payment or deposit into a Maryland 529 education account.

man on stage in front of giant Maryland flag gives thumbs-up sign to a line young people
UMD President Darryll J. Pines greets inaugural Service Year Option members on Friday.

UMD hosted Service Year Option members for program training on Thursday and Friday, with on-site work beginning this week at the members’ host organizations. As the country’s first “Do Good” campus, hosting the Service Year Option members was fitting, said Pines.

“Today is another example of how we are working to meet our obligation to our local community, our state and our nation by leveraging tremendous talent like all of you,” he said on Friday. “Terps have a long track record of creating solutions to the grand challenges of our time with a commitment to a better, collective future. So today is truly a celebration of what came before and what will come in the future thanks to you.”

The Robert H. Smith School of Business will host three members of the inaugural class, who will assist on service-related initiatives led by UMD faculty. In addition to the Initiative for Veteran Lifelong Leadership, members will also assist in creating a new minor on flourishing and well-being and on projects through the Center for Social Value Creation.

“This initiative is great opportunity for Smith to demonstrate our commitment to service,” said Senior Faculty Specialist Sarah Wolek, a Maryland delegate representing part of Montgomery County, who is spearheading the new minor. “Business is about cultivating your community, and these young people will be doing amazing things to contribute to our state.”

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