The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

Life!

January 20, 2013

AmeriCorps seeks people for Energy Express

Applications are now being accepted for summer positions in a unique statewide program administered by the West Virginia University Extension Service and AmeriCorps that helps 3,000 West Virginia children maintain and improve their reading skills.

AmeriCorps is recruiting mentors and community coordinators for Energy Express, an award-winning, eight-week program offered in rural and low-income West Virginia communities.

The program is designed to provide learning opportunities and nutrition during the summer months, when children are most at risk for falling behind on reading levels — a preventable loss known as the “summer slide.”

There are two ways in which people can serve Energy Express through AmeriCorps: as a mentor or community coordinator.

Energy Express mentors are college, or college-bound, students make learning fun for small groups of school-age children by creating a safe, enriching environment focused on reading, writing, art and drama.

In addition to the learning activities, mentors eat nutritious, family-style meals with children, make family visits and complete a community service project.

“Our activities help create a special bond between the mentor and the children,” said Alicia Cassels, literacy and academic success specialist with WVU’s Extension Service — a partner in the Energy Express.

“This program is designed to help shape the lives of the children whom the mentors serve, but in the process, we find that the mentors often have a life-changing experience, too.”

The community coordinator recruits volunteers to assist Energy Express children during reading, writing, art, drama and noncompetitive recreation activities.

Other community coordinator duties include raising awareness and involving the community and family members in children’s learning. Each community coordinator will also complete a community service project with other Energy Express AmeriCorps members.

“Energy Express is about impacting children’s lives, but it also has a huge impact on the lives of the volunteers,” Cassels said. “When community members work together to help children succeed, it makes for a better experience, and we depend on our community coordinators to help us build those relationships.”

In return for their 300 hours of service, AmeriCorps mentors and community coordinators receive a $1,850 summer living allowance and a $1,175 Segal AmeriCorps Education Award valid for up to seven years to pay for college tuition or loans.

Each summer, AmeriCorps engages college-bound graduating high school seniors and currently enrolled college students to serve communities in need. AmeriCorps’ Energy Express mentors must be at least 18 years of age before June 13.

Community coordinators must also be 18 years of age by the above date. However, these positions are not limited to college students.

Applications for both positions are available online at www.energyexpress.wvu.edu, or by calling 304-293-3855. The selection process begins March 1. Applications are accepted until all positions are filled.

Energy Express is a program under the leadership of WVU Extension Service’s 4-H Youth Development program. This AmeriCorps program is funded, in part, by grants from the West Virginia Department of Education and the Arts and Volunteer West Virginia. Volunteer West Virginia encourages West Virginians of all ages and abilities to be involved in service to their communities.

Based on the success of Energy Express participants and the unique aspects of the program, the National Center for Summer Learning at Johns Hopkins University named the Energy Express program one of the nation’s best summer learning programs in 2009.

For more information about becoming an Energy Express community coordinator, visit www.energyexpress.wvu.edu, or call 304-293-3855.

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