During the summer months, children play outside, or play video games and watch television, but reading isn’t often high on the list of things they want to do during time off from school.
But the Energy Express program will be back in Mingo County this summer to help those students improve their reading skills. The AmeriCorps program is brought to the county through a collaboration of the WVU Extension Service, Coalfield CAP, the Mingo Board of Education and Mingo County 4-H Club.
Energy Express is an eight-week summer reading program promoting the school success of West Virginia children living in rural and low-income communities.
In addition to improving reading skills, the program hires local graduating high school seniors and college students to be mentors, helping kids learn while having fun.
College-bound graduating high school seniors and currently enrolled college students at least 18 years of age before June 9, 2011 are encouraged to apply to serve as Energy Express mentors.
Mark Whitt, the WVU Extension agent for the county, said the program brings much needed summer jobs.
“We will hire 36 people total,” Whitt said. “That includes site coordinators, cooks, custodians and other positions in addition to the mentors.”
He said the program has been in the county since 1994, and brings in $150,000 into the local economy.
In return for their 300 hours of service, mentors receive a $1,850 summer living allowance and a $1,132 Segal AmeriCorps Education Award valid for up to seven years to pay for college tuition or loans.
College-student mentors make learning fun for small groups of school-age children by creating a safe, enriching environment focused on reading, writing, art and drama. These activities help create a special bond between the mentor and the children in the group. In addition, mentors eat nutritious family-style meals with children, make family visits and complete a community service project.
Whitt said the students are tested at the beginning and end of the program. Those kids have had improvement in their reading levels from 3.7 month to 8.9 months, according to Woodcock-Johnson achievement test criteria.
He remarked on how much the mentors as well as the students enjoy Energy Express.
“The kids seem to relate to the mentors,” Whitt said. “It is truly a win-win situation for everyone involved.”
Applications are available online at www.energyexpress.wvu.edu or by calling the Energy Express state office at (304) 293-3855 or the Mingo County Office at 304-235-0370. The selection process will begin March 1, 2011. Applications are accepted until all positions are filled.