Reading program offered

PARKERSBURG — Applications are being accepted for summer positions in a 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, officials said.

AmeriCorps is recruiting mentors and community coordinators for Energy Express, an award-winning, 8-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,” program officials said.

“Energy Express is an opportunity for children to learn in a safe environment that makes reading and learning fun,” said Matthew Beatty, WVU Extension Service 4-H Energy Express interim director. “We find that when children can have fun during the learning process they become more focused and driven.”

In Wood County, organizers are seeking 23 individuals to help with the Energy Express program at McKinley, Martin, Neale and Mineral Wells Elementary schools, said Jodi Smith, 4-H extension agent, with the WVU Extension Service in Parkersburg.

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 who 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.

The community coordinator recruits 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 complete a community service project with other Energy Express AmeriCorps members.

In return for their 300 hours of service, AmeriCorps mentors and community coordinators receive a $1,850 summer living allowance and a $1,252.91 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 8.

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…/you…/energy-express/get-involved, or by calling 304-293-3855. The selection process began 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.

The National Center for Summer Learning at Johns Hopkins University named Energy Express program one of the nation’s best summer learning programs in 2009.

For more information about Energy Express, visit…/you…/energy-express/get-involved, or call 304-293-3855. Smith can be reached at 304-424-1960.