The 1990s brought a period of growth to RurAL CAP's community and child development programs. RurAL CAP introduced several national community service programs to rural Alaska, began providing direct services to the most difficult homeless population in Anchorage, and started two nationally recognized child and parent development programs.
Continuing a tradition that began in Alaska in the 1960s with the VISTA volunteer programs, RurAL CAP became one of three Alaskan agencies in 1994 to sponsor AmeriCorps, a new national community service program. RurAL CAP has since created four AmeriCorps programs and a VISTA program that provide direct services to rural Alaskans in the areas of education, public safety, human needs, and the environment.
The Child Development AmeriCorps program, started in 1994 as RurAL CAP's original AmeriCorps program, later came to be known as the ARCTIC Program (Addressing Rural Challenges Through Intergenerational Cooperation). It served as a way for local people to address the child development needs identified by their communities. Each year, 10 ARCTIC members were recruited locally and dedicated their year of service to supporting healthy activities for youth, fostering child literacy, sponsoring parent trainings, hosting elder and youth events, and educating children about fire prevention. Although no longer in existence, the ARCTIC AmeriCorps program made a positive difference in the lives of hundreds of Alaskans.
Originally started by the US EPA, the Alaska EPA AmeriCorps program came to RurAL CAP in 1996 and is now called the Rural Alaska Village Environmental Network Youth Development AmeriCorps Program (RAVEN YDA). The 20 members in the RAVEN YDA program are recruited from rural communities across Alaska. They serve their communities by improving solid waste management, sanitation, energy conservation, and other local environmental issues through community-based education and direct service activities.
Annually, up to 80 students participate in the Students-in-Service AmeriCorps program. Since 1999, RurAL CAP, in partnership with the social work department at the Universities of Alaska Anchorage and Fairbanks, has provided undergraduate and graduate social work students with the opportunity to earn a partial education award by completing community service in conjunction with their practicum requirements. In 2001, the Students-in-Service program was expanded to include the University of Alaska Anchorage, School of Nursing.
In January 2004 RurAL CAP began the BIRCH (Building Initiatives in Rural Community Health) AmeriCorps Program. Fifteen BIRCH Members from rural communities across Alaska work with health providers and community residents to identify the highest priority health issues in their communities. The BIRCH AmeriCorps Program strengthens communities by expanding opportunities for people of all ages to be involved in community activities and decision making. Drawing upon the unique cultures and lifestyles of rural Alaskans, BIRCH AmeriCorps members support community members, youth, elders, families and communities in building local solutions to local health and wellness issues.
Each year up to 11 new Village Council Management Program (VCMP) VISTA Members are recruited from their local communities. VCMP VISTAs work with their local city or tribal council to develop grant writing programs, provide computer training, and sponsor computer networking activities.
Since RurAL CAP began sponsoring AmeriCorps and VISTA programs ten years ago, 470 Members have come through the programs with 86% of the Members graduating and receiving an education award.