AmeriCorps must change its discriminatory policy

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Susie Balcom applied to be a team leader at AmeriCorps' National Civilian Community Corps (NCCC), the national community service organization, in order to serve her country. She put her graduate school acceptance on hold to give back to the program that had given so much to her when she served in the state program. When she received multiple offers to serve with AmeriCorps, she was thrilled – on her way to completing a life goal.

But then the NCCC withdrew Susie’s offer. Why? Susie had received counseling for anxiety following a sexual assault, and the NCCC decided they couldn’t accommodate this “condition” in their program.

Experiencing sexual assault or anxiety doesn’t make a qualified applicant unfit for a volunteer position. AmeriCorps doesn’t need to know this – so why are they asking unnecessary and intrusive questions?

Seeking counseling or therapy doesn’t make someone unqualified. The NCCC's actions are steeped in old-fashioned stigmas about mental health and women.

There’s something deep and insidious at work here: the sexist and ableist assumptions about people with mental health issues who seek treatment, particularly relating to sexual assault.

Susie maintained a 4.0 GPA throughout college, which is when she experienced the assault. She is an accomplished professional – one of her jobs, which she held after the sexual assault, required she provide counseling to others who have experienced violence. She had served two terms in the AmeriCorps state program before AmeriCorps extended multiple offers to Susie for the national corps. Nothing in her experience and actions should disqualify her from this service.

When Susie heard the news, she says she “felt devastated, attacked, and grossly misunderstood.” She is fighting back because, in her words, “I want AmeriCorps to change how it completes health screenings for the benefit of anyone interested in serving, and for the benefit of our country.”

To truly empower communities, AmeriCorps must give everyone a fair chance to serve. Add your name now to tell AmeriCorps' NCCC to change its unfair and discriminatory policies.

To the Corporation for National Community Service:

Revise your policies in inquiring about and assessing applicants’ medical and mental health. Your unnecessary and intrusive questions lead to discrimination against qualified candidates.