Each summer nearly 3,000 West Virginia children from low-income families will benefit from a $4.2 million grant over three years for Energy Express, an AmeriCorps program under the leadership of West Virginia University Extension Service.
This summer the program is offered at 79 sites in 41 counties across the state.
Energy Express is designed to provide learning opportunities and nutrition during the summer months, when children are most at risk for falling into the “summer slide,” according to Ruthellen Phillips, Energy Express director and WVU Extension faculty member.
The summer slide occurs when children fall behind academically because they do not continue to build their reading skills in the summer months.
The grant money was awarded by the Corporation for National and Community Service through Volunteer West Virginia: the State’s Commission for National and Community Service. The money will be spread out over a three-year period. A large portion of the grant will go toward the 500 AmeriCorps members’ living allowances.
Under the direction of WVU Extension state teachers supervise nearly 500 AmeriCorps college students and other community members who serve as mentors and community coordinators. The mentors spend their days reading, writing, interacting and creating artwork with kids in first through sixth grades. Community Coordinators recruit, train and supervise the program’s volunteers.
The AmeriCorps members will be sworn-in at a ceremony at West Virginia Wesleyan College on Monday, June 14. The event is also a kick-off the summer’s Energy Express program.
This WVU 4-H Youth Development program which partners with AmeriCorps, ensures that children in low-income communities receive the nutrition and reading help they need to stay on track for six weeks during the summer.
In addition to WVU Extension Service, AmeriCorps and Volunteer West Virginia, other supporters include the West Virginia Department of Education and the West Virginia Department of Education and the Arts.
The benefits of Energy Express extend beyond the six weeks of summer.
“Children who participate in this program are able to maintain or improve their educational levels from the previous year,” Phillips said. “The students can return to classes without any major setbacks.”
Each week every child receives a book to take home and keep.
Entering its 18th year, Energy Express is one of WVU Extension Service’s premier programs, uniting children and community members to make summer a time for food, fun and learning in areas and for people in need.
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 Energy Express program one of the nation’s best summer learning programs in 2009.
For more information about Energy Express, visit www.energyexpress.wvu.edu, or call Ruthellen Phillips at 304-293-3855.
Ann Bailey Berry