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WVU Extension Service and AmeriCorps seek volunteers for summer reading and nutrition program

An Americorps mentor reads to children in an Energy Express classroom

Reading and comprehension skills are critical to success in today’s fast-paced world. Energy Express, a summer reading and nutrition program offered by WVU Extension Service and AmeriCorps, helps to ensure West Virginia’s youths keep up with those much-needed skills, particularly during the summer months.

“Energy Express, an eight-week reading and nutrition program offered in rural and low-income West Virginia communities, helps children entering first through sixth grade overcome the ‘summer slide’ that occurs when youths fall behind academically during the summers in between school years, said Andrea Price, former WVU Extension Service 4-H Energy Express program director. “In 2018, more than 3,000 children in 40 West Virginia counties participated in the program, and we need dedicated mentors and volunteers to help make this program a success.”

Energy Express is currently seeking West Virginians 18 years or older to apply for paid positions as AmeriCorps members to serve as mentors and community coordinators. AmeriCorps members receive a living allowance, education award and community service hours.

“This is a wonderful opportunity to make a difference in the lives of children and communities of West Virginia. Energy Express mentors and other volunteers provide a fun, safe, environment that promotes summer learning, builds lasting relationships and ensures the daily nutritional needs are met for children living in low-income, rural communities,” said Price.

Volunteer assistance during the summer also makes a lasting impact on children who participate in Energy Express activities. In 2018, nearly 67 percent of participants maintained or increased reading achievement levels. Additionally, children in the Energy Express program received more than 120,936 meals and each week received a take-home book related to the weekly theme.

“As we have seen over the past 25 years, these bonds are not soon forgotten. Many children affected by the program go on to become teen volunteers and serve in the same capacity as the individuals who took time to make a difference in their lives as a child. As someone who has participated in this wonderful program, I can tell you first-hand, that not only will service as an AmeriCorps member change the life of a child, it will change you.”

Applicants interested in serving through AmeriCorps as mentors or community coordinators must be 18 years of age by June 7 to apply. Position descriptions and application may be found on the Energy Express website. The selection process begins March 1 and applications will be accepted until all positions are filled.

Energy Express is a program under the leadership of WVU Extension Service’s 4-H Youth Development program. The AmeriCorps program is funded, in part, by grants from private foundations and corporations and Volunteer West Virginia, the state’s commission for national and community service.

In 2016, West Virginia’s Promise—The Alliance for Youth recognized Energy Express as the Red Wagon Award recipient for its commitment to helping West Virginia youths learn and grow through summer initiatives. 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.