Summer program to aid education in rural communities
Published: Tuesday, December 6, 2011
Updated: Tuesday, December 6, 2011 23:12
The West Virginia University Extension Service and AmeriCorps, a national service program, are sponsoring Energy Express, a statewide program that promotes education for children in rural communities.
Applications are now being accepted for positions as a mentor or community coordinator in the program, which helps 3,000 children across the state maintain, and improve their reading skills. AmeriCorps is seeking 500 individuals to fill these positions.
Energy Express is a six-week summer program promoting the school success of children living in rural and low-income communities across West Virginia.
Kim Liston, AmeriCorps coordinator for the WVU Extension Service, said Energy Express has been an AmeriCorps program for years now.
"AmeriCorps is a national service program, and Energy Express is a great way for students to get involved in a statewide and a national program," Liston said.
During the program, students receive a learning experience based on reading to prevent the student from falling behind over the summer months. The students also eat nutritious, family-style meals and have fun, Liston said.
"Basically, what we do is try to make the book they read that day reflect on every other activity during the day, as well, such as art projects, dramas and things like that," Liston said. "This helps them remember the book and actually have fun doing it."
Mentors are college or college-bound students who help the participants of the program learn, and guide them through their day.
"The mentor works hands-on with the students in the program by doing reading, writing, art, drama and non-competitive or cooperative play with the students," Liston said. "The ratio of mentors to students is one to eight, so it's a relatively small group."
In addition to helping students learn with these activities, mentors also talk to families of the children, complete a community service project, design activity plans and learn many other skills they can take with them after this experience, she said.
Community coordinators who train and manage the volunteers for the program also assist students in their daily activities, Liston said, and are connected to the community.
"Community coordinators are learning how to do press releases, work with community agencies, promote the program in the community and other skills throughout this program," Liston said.
The program also serves to foster a sense of community for the children involved, she said.
"The kids, of course, get these wonderful role models that they look up to, but the self-esteem aspect really works on both levels – the mentors and community coordinators learn a lot of skills they never thought they'd ever do and become more confident in them," Liston said. "Of course, it looks great on a resume as well."
In return for their 300 hours of service, mentors and community coordinators receive a $1,850 summer living allowance and a $1,175 Segal AmeriCorps Education Award to pay for college tuition or loans.
"As a firm believer in getting any experience that you can, Energy Express is a perfect way to have fun for the summer, see if you enjoy working with kids, see if education is a good career option for you or see if you'd rather work with the community," Liston said.
Energy Express has about 80 different sites in 40 different counties all over the state, and students can also volunteer with the program. Liston encourages students and community members to get involved and pass the word on to others as well.
To apply to be a mentor or community coordinator, students can visit energyexpress.wvu.edu or call 304-293-3855. Applicants must be 18 years old by June 7, 2012, but positions are not limited to college students. The selection process begins March 1, and Energy Express will continue to accept applications until all positions are filled.
"It's truly amazing to watch a child participate in this program," Liston said. "The past volunteers, mentors and coordinators really love the program, and it's a fantastic opportunity for students to get involved, get good experience and earn some money for college at the same time."