New Feature! Voice of the Chair: National Council

New Feature! Voice of the Chair: National Council

“The NC (National Council) is that group that plans the annual Summit, right?”

Well, yes. But, also, so much more! Each issue of MyAFS News will include this column, “The Voice of the Chair.” This feature is an opportunity for Jim Walker, Chair of the National Council (NC) and NC Vice Chair Ann Sweet, to help AFS volunteers understand more about the NC and its crucial role in the organization.

To kick off this feature, this month’s column will cover the basics: what the NC is and how its work impacts AFS-USA volunteers.

What does the NC do? The purpose of the NC is straightforward: to infuse (and reinforce) the voice of the volunteer into AFS. The NC is made up of committees and Advisory Groups (AGs), all co-led by AFS volunteers and AFS staffers. These committees and AGs discuss how core AFS functions – from hosting to travel to support, and so much more – can work more efficiently and effectively.


The NC has two primary goals: 1) to increase communication and 2) to plan the annual AFS-USA Volunteer Summit. Those two simple responsibilities include many tasks.


What do the NC Co-Chairs do? Jim and Ann oversee the administration of the NC. They meet every week with AFS President and CEO Tara Hoffmann and Mary Jo Brock, NC Staff Liaison/Co-Chair, to help determine what the organization needs from the NC and, in turn, to share what the NC is focusing on. Jim and Ann also invite volunteers to reach out to them with suggestions for NC committees and AGs to tackle.


The responsibilities of the volunteer leaders only start there. While each NC committee and AG is responsible for meeting and carrying out its goals, Ann and Jim call regular meetings of the committee and AG leaders. These meetings are opportunities for leaders to report on progress and get input from others within AFS whose responsibilities overlap.


How does the NC help me, a local volunteer? Let’s say you’re a local volunteer who pitches in on host family interviews. You fill out the form on the AFS site but notice you have information to share that isn’t covered by the questions you are asked to answer. The Hosting AG is one way to go: find the chair’s contact information and send in your query. A team of volunteers on the AG will discuss it at their first opportunity. This type of input from volunteers in the field helps make AFS processes better.


But the Summit, right? Yes, the NC, in close partnership with AFS staff, plans and executes the annual Volunteer Summit. A committee of NC leaders meets regularly to do everything from identifying a meeting location to constructing the agenda.


Do you have an idea or a question for Ann and Jim? Reach out to them at or