First Lady Asks Businesses to Allow Employees to Spend Part of Work Week Mentoring Youth

By Penny Starr | January 26, 2011 | 4:01 AM EST

First lady Michelle Obama spoke at a Mentoring Summit in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday telling participants that the Obama administration is issuing a challenge to U.S. businesses asking them to allow employees to spend part of their work week helping youth. ( Starr)

( – First lady Michelle Obama on Tuesday said she was “thrilled” to announce a new program that asks U.S. businesses to allow employees to spend part of the work day volunteering with young people. The program will be run by the federal agency tasked with overseeing volunteerism in the United States. 

“And that’s why today, I am thrilled to announce that the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) has teamed up with several major companies to establish a Corporate Mentoring Challenge,” Obama said at a summit held by CNCS and the National Mentoring Partnership MENTOR at the Library of Congress.

“This is a program calling on businesses of all sizes to allow their employees to mentor for short periods during the work day, giving kids positive role models and offering employees a way to give back,” Obama said. “And they’ve already received new commitments from leading companies who have agreed to harness their resources and help us make a difference on a very large scale. 

“We want to do things big,” Obama said, but did not spell out details about the challenge.

The CNCS is the federal agency that oversees volunteer programs such as AmeriCorps, Senior Corps, and the United We Stand call to service introduced by President Barack Obama by video in June 2009.

"The challenges we face are unprecedented in their size and scope, and we cannot rely on quick fixes or easy answers to put us on the road to recovery," Obama said in the video message. "In this new century, we need to a build a new foundation for economic growth in America.

“My Administration has already begun this work with dramatic new investments in education, health care and clean energy – investments that will create new jobs and lay the foundation for lasting prosperity. But we cannot do this alone here in Washington.

Economic recovery is as much about what you're doing in your communities as what we're doing in Washington – and it’s going to take all of us, working together,” Obama said.  

The budget for CNCS has grown from 927.1 million in 2005 to $1,149,721,000 in 2010. Obama requested a budget of $1,415,586,000 for 2011, but the Senate reduced the amount to $1,365,586,000.

The first lady said that many U.S. companies are already working with local schools, and she hopes others will follow suit.

“I want to encourage businesses across the country to follow this example in the months and years ahead,” Mrs. Obama said. “There is so much, so much good that we can all do here.”

Other members of the Obama administration participating in the Mentoring summit included Attorney General Eric Holder, Education Secretary Arne Duncan and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.