PARKERSBURG - A summer reading and nutrition program is looking for mentors and coordinators.
Energy Express will be conducted for eight weeks this year at Emerson, Martin and Franklin elementary schools in Parkersburg.
AmeriCorps is seeking individuals to help children through the program. Applications are now being accepted for summer positions in the statewide program administered by the West Virginia University Extension Service and AmeriCorps. Statewide the program helps 3,000 West Virginia children maintain and improve their reading skills.
Last year the program served 160 local children.
"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," said Jodi Smith, Wood County West Virginia University Extension Service agent who assists in coordinating the local program. "We will have some returning mentors and community coordinators, but we need more."
Energy Express mentors are college or college-bound students who work with small groups of elementary school-age children by creating a safe, enriching environment focused on reading, writing, art and drama, crafts and recreation activities.
About Energy Express
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, the State's Commission for National and Community Service.
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.
In addition, children in the program receive family-style nutritious breakfast and lunch. Mentors in the program eat meals with the children, make family visits and assist with 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. "This program is designed to help shape the lives of the children who the mentors serve, but in the process, we find that the mentors often have a life-changing experience, too."
The community coordinator is responsible for recruiting volunteers to assist Energy Express children during reading, writing, art, drama and non-competitive 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. AmeriCorps' Energy Express mentors must be at least 18 years of age before June 7. Community coordinators must also be 18 years of age by June 7.
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.