Energy Express, a childrens summer reading program developed and coordinated by the West Virginia University Extension Service, recently received the Northeast Extension DirectorsAward of Excellence at the groups winter meeting in Baltimore, Md.

The honor recognizes outstanding program accomplishments in �€?extending the knowledge of the land-grant system in order to address contemporary issues in the Northeast Extension region.�€?

Through Energy Express, West Virginia children in rural and low-income communities participate in learning opportunities. In addition to reading activities, the children receive two nourishing meals per day. The six-week program operates at selected elementary schools in a majority of West Virginia counties.

College students and community residents serve as mentors and volunteer coordinators. The students and coordinators are AmeriCorps or Volunteers in Service to America (VISTA) members and earn educational awards for their service.

The program has brought about impressive results. The reading achievement scores of participating children have improved significantly, particularly in word identification, passage comprehension, and broad reading skills as measured by pre- and post-exam scores. The average child improved broad reading scores by 3.5 months.

The program was piloted in two rural, low-income communities in 1994 with a few participants and a small budget. This year, Energy Express expects to serve 3,840 children at nearly 90 sites statewide, with 524 college student mentors working with small groups of children.

Energy Express has been recognized several times for its efforts. It has received the �€?Innovations Award�€? from the Council of State Governments. The program also received Extension-related awards including �€?Team Program Excellence,�€? presented by the WVU Extension Service, and  �€?Team Outstanding Interdisciplinary Impact Program,�€? given by the Joint Council of Extension Professionals. Extension Specialist Ruthellen Phillips, director of Energy Express, received the Heebink Award for Distinguished State Service from West VirginiaUniversity.