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In front of a crowd of 200 Hollywood executives, writers and producers, Chelsea Clinton and Jimmy Kimmel teamed up with ServiceNation today to unveil an ambitious initiative aimed at convincing the youth of America to spend a year after high school or college serving in their communities through programs like AmeriCorps, a domestic version of the Peace Corps.
“We know that the millennial generation wants to serve if they are given the right information and opportunities, and so I think that gives particular urgency to our efforts today,” Clinton told The Hollywood Reporter. “In order to reach millennials, we need to go where they already are, and the entertainment industry has the megaphone and audience to help us get the word out and change the cultural expectation of what it means to grow up in America.”
Following the announcement of the “Serve a Year” campaign at the Jimmy Kimmel Live studio lot in Los Angeles, Clinton will tape a segment for Kimmel’s show that will air later this evening. She is expected to share the stage with actor Joe Morton — who appears in a PSA for “Serve a Year” alongside Kimmel, Keegan Michael Key and Jordan Peele — along with executives from Airbnb, Tumblr, Comcast and NBCUniversal, which have all committed their resources to the initiative.
“This campaign is about more than national service alone,” Clinton told THR. “It’s about creating a new movement and a new cultural expectation that we will all contribute to our communities whether through service years or days of service throughout a year.
“We’re not just looking to get the word out; we’re hoping to change expectations — that being an American, for those of us who are healthy and able — brings an expectation of service, whenever we can, wherever we can. It shouldn’t be a surprise when a recent college graduate tells their friends they plan on serving a year, it should be as normal as anything else. The same if someone says she’s going to spend one Saturday a month working in her church soup kitchen or volunteering at the local park department. That’s what we’re looking to do.”
The role of Hollywood, as well as the tech industry, is key in making the effort a success by popularizing the idea of national service through television and movie scripts, as well as content created by cutting-edge online and social media outlets, said Clinton, whose father helped create AmeriCorp under the National and Community Service Trust Act of 1993, when he was president.
“Today, our nation faces immense challenges, from how to educate our children for the 21st century to how best to honor our veterans when they return home,” Clinton said. “One in five of our young people are neither in school or working. These are not disconnected challenges, and their solutions should be the same: empowering young people with meaningful service opportunities, meaningful for their own development and meaningful for our country.”
The “Serve a Year” campaign is based on a similar initiative in which the Harvard School of Public Health worked with Hollywood writers to insert drunk driving messages — along with the term “Designated Driver” — into hit TV shows. With more than 160 primetime programs incorporating the concept into their content over a four-year period, the country saw a 30 percent decline in drunk driving fatalities between 1988 and 1994.
Over the next three years, officials said, “Serve a Year” will push to engage the creative community in an effort to reach “millions of Americans looking for an opportunity to serve.”
“We envision a day when you’re as likely to hear young people ask each other ‘Where will your year of service be?’ as you would ‘Where are you applying to college?’ ” said Zach Maurin, executive director of ServiceNation.
ABC’s hit sitcom The Middle — one of the many shows that ServiceNation has met with over the past few months — has already committed to having one of the show’s main characters join AmeriCorps next season.
“It’s clear that far too many young people do not know that a service year is even an option,” said DeAnn Heline, co-creator and executive producer of The Middle. “By introducing an AmeriCorps member into our story, our show can play a vital role in changing the national conversation around this issue and add incredible depth and experience to the lives of our characters.”
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