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Students can find purpose as volunteers through summer reading program

AmeriCorps members reading to youths at Energy Express pop-up event

Each summer, hundreds of volunteers provide life-changing experiences for West Virginia youths. Through the West Virginia University Extension Service Energy Express summer reading program, AmeriCorps members, Energy Express mentors and others help to enhance reading and comprehension skills for students throughout the state.

The six-week reading and nutrition program, which will run from June 21, 2021 to July 30, 2021, is offered in rural and low-income West Virginia communities to help students entering first through fourth grade (as of fall 2021) overcome the ‘summer slide’ that often occurs when youths fall behind academically between school years. Through partnerships with local, state and community organizations, the program also provides nutritious meals for the students—meals that they may not otherwise receive.

In 2020, more than 2,400 children across 38 West Virginia counties participated in the program, with 65% of those children maintaining or increasing their reading achievement levels. In addition, the Energy Express program distributed more than 30,200 take-home books related to the weekly theme. 

When the pandemic eliminated the opportunity for in-person programming, remote platforms were incorporated, bringing value-added benefits to the program. WVU Extension Service and West Virginia Public Broadcasting partnered to bring Energy Express programming to West Virginia youths and their families in a novel, yet engaging, format. In the safety and comfort of their own homes, viewers tuned into WVPB-TV or the WVU Extension Service YouTube channel to enjoy interactive and fun activities in literacy, STEM, art, cooking, nature and more.

“The recent challenges we’ve faced have only emphasized the significant role WVU Extension Service plays in the lives of children and communities across the state,” Mark Swiger, newly appointed program director of WVU Extension Service Energy Express, stated. “The dedication, skills and knowledge of the team of AmeriCorps members, Energy Express mentors and other partners that come together to provide the summer reading and nutrition program forms the strong foundation we need now and in the future." 

Applicants interested in serving as AmeriCorps members, Energy Express mentors or community coordinators must be 18 years of age by June 11 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 Office of the Dean and Director. The AmeriCorps program is funded, in part, by grants and donations from individuals and private foundations and corporations through the West Virginia University Foundation and Volunteer West Virginia, the lead agency for volunteerism and National Service in West Virginia.

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



CONTACT: Lindsay Wiles
Communications Specialist, Sr.
WVU Extension Service