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WVU Extension Service connects volunteer efforts and communities through Energy Express

Energy Express mentor reads to young boy.

While some college students look forward to time off during summer break, West Virginia University student Moriah Davis looks forward to heading back into the classroom where she helps young West Virginians enhance their reading skills through the WVU Extension Service Energy Express program.

Energy Express, an award-winning, 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 between school years.

Davis, an elementary education graduate student at WVU’s College of Education and Human Services and three-year Energy Express mentor, has found a passion for service working with AmeriCorps and the Energy Express program.

“Energy Express is a way that I can give back to my community and give back to the students that I potentially will be working with in the future. It’s also a way for me to gain experience that’s pertinent to my future as an elementary school educator,” said Davis.

In 2018, more than 3,000 children across 40 West Virginia counties participated in the program, with 67 percent of those children maintaining or increasing their reading achievement levels. In addition, the Energy Express program served more than 104,800 meals and distributed more than 21,100 take-home books related to the weekly theme. Many Energy Express locations also serve as community feeding sites, where 16,100 meals were served to other community youths.

“As the summer progresses I see students, who have been struggling throughout the school year, make tremendous progress with their reading skills,” Davis continued.

Volunteer efforts are the heart and soul of Energy Express—and with an increased number of students attending the program, dedicated mentors and volunteers are still needed. AmeriCorps members, 4-H members, college students and community volunteers provide the support needed to successfully continue the program.

“The Energy Express program gives mentors and other volunteers an opportunity to make a difference in the lives of children in their communities in a fun, safe environment that promotes summer learning and builds lasting friendships,” said Andrea Price, former WVU Extension Service 4-H Energy Express program director.

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 applications may be found on the  Energy Express website. The selection process begins March 1, with applications being 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.

For questions about the program or the application process, contact the WVU Extension Service Energy Express office at 304-293-3855.