With heartfelt passion, Nebraska Senator Tony Vargas returned to his AmeriCorps roots at College Possible Omaha to inspire the next generation of community leaders. Serving as the keynote speaker for the final week of Welcome Weeks, Senator Vargas delivered a powerful message that underscored the importance of service, equity, and educational opportunity.
Senator Vargas, a proud AmeriCorps alumnus, was welcomed with open arms by the College Possible community and AmeriCorps members, all of whom share a passion for serving their communities and creating pathways to higher education. He recounted his journey of public service, which began as a middle school science teacher serving with AmeriCorps and Teach for America, and later as a member of the Omaha Public Schools Board, before ascending to his current role in the Nebraska legislature.
During his keynote address to College Possible staff and AmeriCorps members, Senator Vargas expressed his profound appreciation for their dedication to service. He emphasized the invaluable role AmeriCorps members play in shaping future leaders across various sectors, from education to healthcare and beyond.
“I appreciate you. We all appreciate you. Our country appreciates you,” Senator Vargas declared. “The work you’re doing is valuable. It’s needed. And if it wasn’t for you, we wouldn’t have future leaders in every single sector improving in education, in healthcare, and jobs.”
Vargas’s commitment to AmeriCorps extends beyond his words; he has been instrumental in advocating for legislative changes to support AmeriCorps members. He highlighted important legislative bills that aim to provide in-state tuition to anyone who has served with AmeriCorps, regardless of where they served, and exclude the education award from state income taxes.
Vargas’s AmeriCorps experience
Vargas’s journey into AmeriCorps was fueled by a desire to see more diverse leaders shaping our future. “I wondered how our country would be impacted when we don’t have more leaders from all different walks of life,” he shared. “If we don’t have amazing leaders in all these spaces, our world and our country are not going to continue to thrive. I realized that in my undergrad and that is why I decided to serve with AmeriCorps. It was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made in my entire life.”
Senator Vargas shies away from the term “politics” when describing his career, preferring to define it as “public service.” He believes what AmeriCorps members are doing mirrors the essence of public service, bringing communities together and fostering understanding.
“Service is the great equalizer across this country,” Senator Vargas shared. “Any division, any hate and extremism are going to be solved by more people serving in their communities and living and learning about what people are going through—that’s the way that things are going to get better in this country.”
He also recognized that service, while challenging, is ultimately the most rewarding endeavor one can undertake. AmeriCorps members, in his view, represent the gateway for hope and positive change in our society.
With his powerful words and unwavering dedication to public service, Senator Vargas’s visit to College Possible Omaha served as a touching reminder of the impact that service and advocacy can have on individuals, communities, and the nation.