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Friday, December 06, 2013

Tis the Season for Giving & Getting Back

Bronx Community Solutions first Community Impact zone was in the Summer 2008 at Timpson and St. John Avenue near the Bruckner Blvd. Community Impact is a unique type of community service project that provides a  faster response to  graffiti and sanitation issues. This section of the Bronx was plagued with many issues; abandoned cars, illegal dumping, prostitution, drugs and graffiti.   In collaboration with the 41st Precinct and several landlords in the neighborhood, BCS began cleaning and maintaining this area on a consistent base.
On November 7, 2013 Mike Stanton, manager of Hop Energy LLC., a fuel company located on 595 Timpson Blvd, met with Ramon Semorile, Crew Supervisor of the Graffiti Program, to share his gratitude for the work BCS has put into the community, especially his business which has being graffiti tagged a few times over the year. Ramon explained Bronx Community Solutions works in the community and these services are free of charge. He also explained that this is a community impact area and a waiver was signed by the previous landlords granting permission to remove the graffiti on several walls.

Community Impact is measured by its impact both in community’s perception and visual improvements and we feel that one of the huge indicators of this success is when Mr. Stanton wanted to show his gratitude by donating supplies to our program. “We donate small amounts of supplies about two to three times a year to at least four or 5 companies.  We appreciate.  Bronx Community Solutions and the work they provide. Our company will continue the relationship with Bronx Community Solutions”.

In the 8 years that Bronx Community Solutions has provided community service assistance to the many businesses, neighborhoods and organizations in the Bronx, this is the first time an agency has given back to us.  It is truly appreciated.
Happy Holidays.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Red Hook Community Court is a success for defendants and taxpayers, study shows

kudos to our sister project, Red Hook Community Justice Center, for making headlines in the Daily News, in the research community and around the world.....
read the entire article here

Friday, November 08, 2013

Lessons From European Prisons

Here's a pretty interesting article from the New York Times Op Ed page.

In February, a group of American corrections officials, judges, prosecutors and public defenders spent a week visiting prisons in Germany and the Netherlands. Those countries incarcerate people at about one-tenth the rate of the United States, for far less time, and under conditions geared toward social reintegration rather than punishment alone.
A new report based on the group’s research suggests that European sentencing and penal practices may provide useful guidance in the growing effort to reform an American prison system buckling under its own weight.
The American and European systems differ in almost every imaginable way, beginning with their underlying rationale for incarceration. Under German law, the primary goal of prison is “to enable prisoners to lead a life of social responsibility free of crime upon release.” Public safety is ensured not simply by separating offenders from society, but by successfully reintegrating them. (click to read the whole article)

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Winter Updates at Bronx Community Solutions

By: Marsha Brown,
Clincal Coordinator, Bronx Community Solutions.
October has brought a number of exciting things to the Bronx Community Solutions clinic.   On October 8th, a new specialized court part opened in the Bronx Criminal Court.   The designated court part (AP8) has been created to identify women and men, charged with prostitution offenses, who are commercially exploited or at risk of exploitation.  The goal of this court part is to provide linkages to services and assist defendants in moving forward and beyond the criminal justice system.

A BCS staff person is present in court to work with defendants and facilitate the court process.  Melissa Novock, BCS’s Prostitution Diversion Program Manager, works with clients in the court part by providing screening assessments, monitoring court compliance and linking defendants to supportive services.  Trauma-informed care is the main component, as a majority of defendants present with extensive trauma histories.

This new part is a collaborative effort of multiple court players.  In working together, a criminal sentence will reflect fairness along with providing meaningful interventions. 

The BCS clinic has other exciting news as well.  Our Youth Justice Social Worker, Rebecca Stahl, took her Masters of Social Work licensing exam on 10/7/13.  She passed with flying colors and is officially an LMSW!  Congratulations, Rebecca!

Also this month, our Community Resource and Programs Manager, Monica Garcia, has been working hard to connect with a number of community organizations in an attempt to establish additional partnerships between BCS and community providers.  She recently connected with The RISEProgram.  RISE, a part of the New York Re-entry Network, is a workforce development initiative of the Police Athletic League (PAL). The program connects court-involved adolescents (ages 16-21) to a variety of services, including job- readiness workshops, paid internship and externships, permanent job placements, and educational services. Clients also engage in weekly individual and group counseling and receive retention incentives.

We are excited for this new opportunity and look forward to working with The RISE Program to provide BCS clients with much-needed services.  We continue our search for other community providers and look forward to establishing additional partnerships in order to better serve our adolescent and adult populations.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Bronx Reentry Working Group

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Service Enhancements at Bronx Community Solutions.

The BCS clinic is continuously working to develop new partnerships while strengthening existing relationships with community programs that provide our clients with diverse services, including educational, vocational, mental health, and temporary housing.  Currently, one of our most pressing needs is to establish connections with providers that can serve our adolescent clients, ages 16-19.

One of our staff members, Monica Garcia, has taken on the new role of Resource and Referral Program Manager, connecting with community providers and establishing formal linkage agreements.  One such provider was The DOME Project.  The Developing Opportunities through Meaningful Education (DOME) Project is a non-profit organization that specializes in working with economically, socially, and academically disadvantaged youth.  We were able to use this new linkage as a six month alternative-to-incarceration recommendation for a 17 year-old defendant facing jail time.

Monica has also worked to increase the employment services provided by long-standing BCS partner, Employment Works (EW), to whom we’ve referred 25 clients this year alone.  Currently, BCS and EW are working to develop a curriculum for a social service group that will focus on job-readiness and other employment-related issues.  The projected start date of this group is October 2013.
In July, Youth Justice Social Worker, Rebecca Stahl, and Pinkerton Fellow, Janer Cordero, implemented a new workshop for ADP community service:
“Bronx Community Solutions (BCS) has revamped its service learning projects by incorporating a “Community Awareness“ group that runs concurrently with the community service mandate for Adolescent Diversion Project (ADP) clients. The group is meant to complement the participants’ community service experience, and elucidate the pivotal role that a community has for personal development along with its capacity to serve as a preventive measure against crime. Another objective of this project is to highlight the responsibilities within a community that are designated on an individualistic, community, and institutional level, and demonstrate that the health of the community is interconnected with the health and actions of the individual. This group is meant to make community service more meaningful for the ADP population, and hopefully encourage a paradigm shift of the criminal justice system, their community, and consequently of themselves.”
By Pinkerton fellow: Janer Cordero
Finally, our STARS case manager, Melissa Novock implemented the first ever “Yoga: Pathway to Healing” free workshop in the courthouse:
“In Mid-July I created the following class: “Yoga: A Path to Healing” a transformative project created for survivors of trauma, specifically for women who are survivors of sex trafficking, prostitution, and intimate partner violence. The class is part of a social service group which focuses on tapping into what I call, “our awareness quotient.”  Participants can attend on a voluntary basis.   This practice provides the space where clients can find a sense of peace and alleviate some of their suffering.  They leave with a smile, standing a bit taller and saying things like, “Wow, I didn’t know we could do all of this, in a court building!” and “I am going to take this breathing practice with me so that when I feel angry or sad.”
"One client, who has been working with BCS for over 2 years, voluntarily came to several sessions.  She was "inspired" from our yoga classes; so inspired, that she even brought her Mother to join her!  Both women were happy to take the peace they gained from our sessions beyond the courtroom doors back to their community.”
By: Melissa Novock, STARS case manager
…..we are excited for all these new social service opportunities and partnerships. Bronx Community Solutions will continue to search for other community providers and establish additional linkages in order to better serve our adolescent and adult populations.
Marsha Brown, M. Phil
Clinical Coordinator, Bronx Community Solutions

Monday, August 05, 2013

"Mid Summer Community Service Dream"

As the Summer days quickly pass before our eyes... Bronx Community Solution's Community Service department continues to have an  impact in the community.  Below are just a few projects that have happened in July.


Love My Block/Step Street clean-up
by: crew supervisor Ramon Semorille

On Saturday, July 20th , I took five ADP participants to 187th street to paint the step street on Marion Avenue. When we got there I thought the day was going to be challenging, after all it was a hot 90 degree day.  But soon after we  started cleaning, the neighborhood residents spoke to the participants and thanked them for their work. This showed them how  importance  the work they did is.  Cynthia Thompkins, Marian Avenue neighborhood association president explained what the event was about and how important it was to take care of the neighborhoods where we live. T.K Singleton taught than how to plant flowers. We worked all day and enjoyed every minute of it. I will like to thank Moises, Matthew, Omar, Cynthia, T.K and Tiffany for the hard work they do in the community.

Health Fair Event by: crew supervisor Matthew Usher
On July 27th Bronx Community Solutions worked with Health First, World Changers Church New York, Metro-plus and The NYPD 46th precinct's to host a community health fair in the  University Height area. The event was held on Cresent Avenue and 188th Street( behind the historical Paradise theatre). The day was filled with kids playing and Bingo for the elderly.  The event was informative and extremely helpful to the community.  It united different cultures and generations, the volunteers seemed to be just as excited as those who attended the even

Graffiti Clean-Up with the 47th precinct
by: Coordinator of Community Service, Moises Reyes

On July 30, Youth Justice Social Worker Rebecca Stahl and Pinkerton Fellow Janer Cordero conducted a “Community Awareness workshop” for the ADP community service participants. The workshop allowed participants to explore the issues facing our communities, and ways they are able to create a positive impact on community. 

Afterwards Graffiti Supervisor, Ramon Reyes, Janer Cordero and myself went with the ADP participants to take part in a graffiti clean-up project, requested by NYPD 47th  precinct community affairs officers, PO  Fuentes and Gomez. At the end of the day, Officer Gome spoke with the crew about the importance of staying in school as a way to stay out of trouble, and as a pathway to career success. ADP participants had a rich afternoon of education, action, and reflection in our community, and enjoyed the opportunity to be part of an effort to create positive change. It was an awesome day! 





Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Bronx Community Solutions does it's small part, to address a Big problem in the Bronx court house.

Since arriving in January, Justice DiMango has been an anomaly in the Bronx courts, where she is charged with clearing a backlog of felony cases that had swelled to crisis proportions. Her brash style and forceful personality, not to mention her relentless efficiency, have set her apart in a courthouse infamous for inaction.
In six months, she has churned through more than 500 cases, slashing by 40 percent the backlog of those over two years old, and leading senior court officials to declare a partial victory after years of failed efforts (read full article here)
While Bronx Community Solutions takes no credit for this victory, at the request of Justice DiMango, we have and  continue to make ourselves available on cases she deems appropriate for a community service disposition.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Staff Summer BBQ!

Last Friday, Bronx Community Solutions staff and interns enjoyed our annual staff picnic/BBQ to celebrate the summer. This year it was held on the rooftop of Via Verde, a new residential building complex in the Bronx where we have conducted community service projects in recent weeks. Staff brought their families and everyone had a great time! The rain that day chased us off the rooftop unfortunately, but a community room on the top floor of the building was available for us to set up food and drinks. It was great to unwind with the BCS family and toast to our hard work all year long. Enjoy some pictures from the event below.

Bronx Community Solutions cleans up!

Councilman Andy King with BCS Crew Supervisors Matthew and Moises
Last Wednesday, at the special request of District 12's newly elected councilman Andy King, Bronx Community Solutions embarked on a new initiative to clean under the elevated 5 train from Gunhill Road to 225th Street (in the northeast section of the Bronx). This block of train stops have been historically plagued with litter and garbage, and are a huge eyesore for the community. Bronx Community Solutions plans to keep this span of blocks on our regular community service rotation, maintaining the area to a higher standard of visible order.

Press was there to cover the cleanup event. Community service crew supervisor Matthew Usher was interviewed briefly by News12!
 Great job to Moises Reyes and the BCS Community Service team!!
- T.K. Singleton, Coordinator of Community Initiatives

Tuesday, July 02, 2013

Bronx Community Solutions Participates in Re-Entry Resource Fair

On June 20, 2013, Bronx Community Solutions, in collaboration with the Bronx Re-Entry Task Force, participated in a Re-Entry Resource Fair held at Hostos Community College in the Bronx. The event was aimed at connecting organizations and service provider agencies with returning citizens, to discuss issues related to re-entry and provide them with valuable community resources. Below is a description of the Fair by an Intern of Bronx Community Solutions, who took part in the day's event.  

"I was recently able to attend the Bronx Reentry Working Group’s (BRWG) Third Annual Community Forum Resource Fair, and I can wholeheartedly state that the event was a success! The fair was comprised of multiple sections, and included a panel discussion from returning citizens who are now professionals within the human services field, informative introductions from organizations about the services that they provide, and savory lunches for everyone to enjoy. The panel discussion was especially moving because of the panelists’ candid honesty on the personal obstacles that they encountered after their release from incarceration. It was also inspiring to know that they were able to utilize their personal experiences as points of reference for their professional work despite the adversity that they faced."

"The speakers touched on the issue of juvenile justice, and its relationship to the Department of Education (DOE). They suggested that the DOE should employ initiatives geared towards the adolescent population that instill sentiments that are oppositional to criminal behavior, and that enforce the importance of educational advancement. Another highlight of the event was Nichole Singleton’s presentation of the Offender Reentry Awareness Program (ORAP), and her passionate emphasis on the essential role of the community for a returning citizen’s reintegration into society. A returning citizens’ relationship to their community can illuminate resources that can propel that individual’s academic or career endeavors, which can consequently affirm their identity, reinforce cultural norms, and hopefully deter further criminogenic behavior."

"During lunch, the organizations were able to interact with returning citizens to make assessments of appropriate referrals to services. It was a great way for reentry practitioners, community-based organizations, and policy makers to form potential collaborations and to meet with prospective clients that could help fulfill their missions and goals. The forum was also an effective method for returning citizens to build a robust and healthy support system, which is vital towards a successful reentry. In addition, the information that was provided during the forum helped the returning citizens to be abreast of the ever-changing regulations that pertain to the general equivalency diploma (GED), health-care systems, housing, and other policies concerning individuals involved with the criminal justice system. Special acknowledgements should be given to Health People for making the event possible and for providing compensation to acquire the locale, Metrocards, and food."

- Janer Cordero, Bronx Community Solutions Pinkerton Fellow

Monday, July 01, 2013

The First Days of Summer

BCS Staff and Crew cleaning up the lot outside Via Verde
When you think of Summertime in New York City, you may think of Coney Island, free summer concerts, and Shakespeare in the Park - but here in the Bronx we think about community service. During the first official week of summer, Bronx Community Service was buzzing with some amazing community service events.

On the first day of summer, Friday, June 21, Bronx Community Solutions partnered with Councilwoman Maria del Carmen Arroyo, the New York City Mayor's Office, Department of Sanitation and the residents of a new Bronx residential development called Via Verde to clean a Mott Haven lot that used to be a railroad, which over time had become a community eyesore. This area is sandwiched between a high school and a sports field, near the newly developed condominium. The lot had been being used as a shanty town which was removed to make room for the new residential building - however the area was left with a large amount of garbage and other debris. Bronx Community Solutions brought a crew of eight defendants and focused on raking up trash and grass, picking up all of the garbage and construction litter. Our day's work substantially improved the appearance of the lot and surrounding area.
BCS Staff and Community Service Participants picking up trash left in the lot

An aerial view of the lot outside Via Verde lot, before cleanup
The same lot, after!
On Monday, June 24th, Bronx Community Solutions partnered with the Bronx River Alliance, the Department of Sanitation, Community Board 9 and the Mayor's Office to clean-up a Bronx River waterfront which had become a neighborhood eyesore. This waterfront was owned by a private owner but had been essentially abandoned, subject to years of neglect. The Mayor's office took over ownership and donated it to the Bronx River Alliance but was in need of assistance in cleaning up the waterfront. BCS brought nine community service participants to pick up garbage and debris that had been collecting there over time: tires, discarded mattresses, pieces of wood, and litter. 
Trash that had accumulated on Westchester Avenue, next to the waterfront

The crew in action at the waterfront area
Picking up the garbage alone took almost three hours to complete
The waterfront area looked much better after the efforts of the crew!

For both cleanups at Via Verde and at the Waterfront, there were hundreds of discarded hypodermic needles littering the area that needed to be cleaned up safely. The Department of Sanitation has an Environmental Police Unit that specializes in the safe removal of needles and other dangerous items. They sent four representatives from the Unit to each event to safely manage the removal of the needles, to insure that BCS staff and participants would not be at risk of infection or harm.

Youth Police Explorers and BCS ADP Crew Participants painting over graffiti behind the Paradise Theater
On Thursday, June 26, Bronx Community Solutions partnered with the 46th Police Precinct's Youth Explorers Program and a local church for a graffiti cleanup event. The Atlanta based church World Changers International recently purchased the historical Paradise Theater. Volunteers from the church, Youth Explorers from the 46th Police Precinct and BCS Adolescent Diversion Program community service participants worked together to clean-up graffiti that had accumulated on the wall behind the Paradise Theater and pick up trash and debris on the surrounding sidewalks. Local neighborhood activist Sidney Flores was present at the event, offering drinks to all the volunteers and speaking with community members. This graffiti clean-up was a part of the preparation for a Community Block party sponsored by the Church. Many community members spoke to us and expressed their gratitude for our efforts, thanking us for helping to engage local youths in maintaining and improving the community.

As the season gets in high gear we look forward to what is in store for Bronx Community Solutions and our transformative community service programs!
- Moises Reyes, Coordinator of Community Service
Bronx Community Solutions

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

BCS Staff attend 41st Precinct Awards Breakfast

On June 13th, 2013 Robin Berg and I attended the 41st Precinct's 25th Annual Fellowship Breakfast, hosted by Deputy Inspector Philip Rivera. The event was to honor police officers and community members of the 41th Precinct (the Hunts Point area) for their service in 2012. Many organizations and local businesses of the 41st Precinct were present, including Krasdale foods, Dayton Industries, Inc., Hunts Point Alliance for Children and World Vision. 
To my surprise, Officer Ada Haddock-Sanchez of the 41st Precinct gave me a plaque to say thank you to Bronx Community Solutions for our work with their precinct. Since we began working closely with the 41st Precinct five years ago, Bronx Community Solutions has brought community service crews to remove graffiti a total of 57 times, sweep the streets 25 times, and have helped with the Bryant community garden. We have also formed two community impact zones, which is where we closed a street down for a short period of time to clean and remove graffiti. We also worked on 165th street to create a mural on a wall that had otherwise been covered with graffiti.
On behalf of Bronx Community Solutions, thank you to the 41th precinct and to officer Haddock!
- Ramon Semorile, BCS Community Service Crew Supervisor

Friday, June 14, 2013

BCS Clinic Staff attend Trauma Stewardship Training

On June 5th, the clinic staff at Bronx Community Solutions attended a Transforming Trauma workshop, hosted by the Trauma Stewardship Institute (TSI). TSI works with professionals to raise awareness, increase understanding, and manage the impact of repeated vicarious trauma exposure (i.e., working with individuals who have experienced trauma). The day was dedicated to discussing and understanding the ways in which vicarious trauma exposure can impact an individual as well as their family, friends, co-workers, and communities.  

The presenter and founder of TSI, Laura van Dernoot Lipsky, worked with participants to identify ways to recognize the negative impacts of vicarious trauma on one’s interpersonal relationships, both personal and professional. Using research and anecdotal evidence, Laura offered support and validation for the difficulty faced by professionals who, through their work, are repeatedly exposed to tragedy and human suffering. Participants were also encouraged to ask questions, offer support, and share their experiences.  

Following the presentation, BCS clinic staff discussed their feelings about the workshop and some of the ways it helped us to think about and recognize the impact of vicarious trauma we may experience through working with our clients. Many of the clients we serve at BCS are in the midst of crises and/or have significant histories of trauma; during our brief time with them, they often share details of their personal lives, giving us a glimpse into the daily struggles and hardships they face. The workshop served as a helpful reminder of the importance of awareness, self-care, and actively seeking ways to manage the aforementioned impacts in order to maintain psychological and physical health, as well as to better serve our clients.   

- Marsha Brown, Clinical Coordinator
  Bronx Community Solutions

Friday, May 31, 2013

Wall Street Journal on AmeriCorps and Public Service

The Wall Street Journal just published an editorial about the nature of public service in the U.S., linking it to the AmeriCorps program.

Bronx Community Solutions has proudly hosted internships for AmeriCorps service members since 2005, and the Center for Court Innovation launched the Juvenile JusticeCorps, a program of AmeriCorps, in October 2010.

A link to the full article can be found here: Lincoln's Call to Service - and Ours

Lincoln's Call to Service—and Ours

A proposal that would help young Americans understand that civic duty is not restricted to the military.

My father first took me to Gettysburg when I was 12 years old. He was a lieutenant colonel in the Army, home from the first of two tours in Vietnam. I remember in particular the hundreds of obelisks poking over the berms, the oxidized plaques attached to rocks and the statues lining the roadways. All spoke for the thousands of men and boys who had died in the grass and dirt serving their nation.
I was young, but I recognized the gravity of the place.

Though I went on to have a career in the military, the visits to Gettysburg with my father were not preparation for soldiering as much as they were early lessons in citizenship—a particular understanding of citizenship that President Lincoln defined and challenged us to fulfill when he delivered his famous address there. It's a citizenship that does not simply reflect upon the sacrifices of others, but that honors their sacrifice through action: "It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced."

Today, as ever, the task is unfinished. Yet the duties of citizenship have fallen from the national agenda. Talk of service is largely confined to buoyant commencement ceremonies. And too often it is just that: talk.
Less than 1% of Americans serve in the military—a historic low during wartime—leading to a broad, complacent assumption that serving the nation is someone else's job. As we've allowed our understanding of service to be so narrowly limited to the uniform, we've forgotten Lincoln's audience: With the armies still fighting, the president exhorted a crowd of civilians on their duty to carry forward the nation's work.

It is right that we send off the young Americans graduating this month from high school, college and professional schools with speeches. They should be congratulated for completing the many exams now behind them. But we must remember another test—Lincoln's test of citizenship—and begin to mark these important junctures in life not just with words, but with real-world commitment.

Universal national service should become a new American rite of passage. Here is a specific, realistic proposal that would create one million full-time civilian national-service positions for Americans ages 18-28 that would complement the active-duty military—and would change the current cultural expectation that service is only the duty of those in uniform.

At age 18, every young man and woman would receive information on various options for national service. Along with the five branches of the military, graduates would learn about new civilian service branches organized around urgent issues like education, health care and poverty. The positions within these branches would be offered through AmeriCorps as well as through certified nonprofits. Service would last at least a year.

Returning military veterans would be treated as the civic assets they are and permitted to use a portion of their GI Bill benefits to support a period of civilian national service, since such service helps them transition to life back home.

The new service opportunities would be created in accordance with the smart rules that have guided AmeriCorps since its founding in 1994, which allow that program to field tens of thousands of service members without displacing workers and who fill vital niches their paid colleagues do not.

Serving full-time for a year or two needs to be a realistic option for all young Americans, regardless of their family's finances. So civilian service positions would be modestly paid, as AmeriCorps positions are now. (Most AmeriCorps service-members receive a $12,100 stipend for the year, and if they complete their term of service, a $5,550 scholarship to help cover tuition or to pay off student loans.) Government agencies focused on the challenges that these service-members address, as well as the corporations that will benefit from employing Americans whose leadership will be cultivated by service, should step up to fund these efforts.

Instead of making national service legally mandatory, corporations and universities, among other institutions, could be enlisted to make national service socially obligatory. Schools can adjust their acceptance policies and employers their hiring practices to benefit those who have served—and effectively penalize those who do not.

More than most Americans realize, the demand to serve already exists. In 2011, there were nearly 600,000 applications to AmeriCorps—a program with only 80,000 positions, only half of which are full time. The Peace Corps received 150,000 requests for applications but has funding for only 4,000 new positions each year. This gap represents democratic energy wasted and a generation of patriotism needlessly squandered.
Some, particularly after having just observed Memorial Day, might think that only war is capable of binding a generation and instilling true civic pride. But you don't have to hear the hiss of bullets to develop a deeper claim to the nation. In my nearly four decades in the military, I saw young men and women learn the meaning and responsibilities of citizenship by wearing the uniform in times of both peace and war. They were required to work with people of different backgrounds, introduced to teamwork and discipline, unified by common tests, and brought even closer by sacrifice. Some discovered, often to their surprise, that they were leaders.

This transformation is not exclusive to the military. Those who disagree need only visit young teachers working 18-hour days together in the Ninth Ward of New Orleans. In rural Colorado health clinics, in California's forests, or Midwest neighborhoods devastated by tornadoes, skeptics would see teams of young people—affluent and poor, college-educated and not—devoting their days to a singular, impactful mission.
Universal national service would surely face obstacles. But America is too big, and our challenges too expansive, for small ideas. To help stem the high-school dropout crisis, to conserve rivers and parks, to prepare for and respond to disasters, to fight poverty and, perhaps most important, to instill in all Americans a sense of civic duty, the nation needs all its young people to serve.

Whatever the details of a specific plan, the objective must be a cultural shift that makes service an expected rite of citizenship. Anything less fails Lincoln's test.

Gen. McChrystal, a former commander of U.S. and international forces in Afghanistan and of the Joint Special Operations Command, is the chairman of the Leadership Council of the Franklin Project on national service at the Aspen Institute.
A version of this article appeared May 30, 2013, on page A15 in the U.S. edition of The Wall Street Journal, with the headline: Lincoln's Call to Service—and Ours.