WVU Extension Service’s Energy Express summer reading and nutrition program reaches nearly 3,000 children in rural and low-income West Virginia communities. (Photo from WVU Extension Service)
West Virginia Senators Shelley Moore Capito and Joe Manchin recently announced that University of West Virginia Extension service Energy Express The program has received more than $ 1.2 million to support youth literacy programs in West Virginia starting in the summer of 2022. The award will run until 2024 ($ 1.2 million each year for three years).
Energy Express received the AmeriCorps State Award from the Corporation for National and Community Service through Volunteer West Virginia. Each summer, the Energy Express summer reading and nutrition program is led and delivered by hundreds of AmeriCorps members, as well as community volunteers, who provide life-changing experiences to nearly 3,000 young people living in in rural and low-income West Virginia communities. WVU County extension officers, along with the state’s Energy Express team, are partnering with school systems and others to bring this program to communities in West Virginia.
During the free six-week program, participants indulge in art, STEM, literacy, games, and other activities that help them hone their reading and comprehension skills. Through partnerships with local, state and community organizations, the program also provides nutritious meals to students, meals they might not otherwise receive.
âThe award of this AmeriCorps grant is very exciting news for Energy Express after a very difficult time. This award will allow us to continue the traditions of our program that make it so exciting for our children, but also gives us the opportunity to focus on innovation and creativity in building our program for the future â, Mark Swiger, director of WVU Extension Service Energy Express, said. âEnergy Express has a 27-year history of blending learning and nutrition through a program focused on national service. We are proud of the work accomplished through the efforts of our WVU County Extension Agents, Site Supervisors, Mentors and Local Partnerships, and we are grateful for their unwavering commitment to the children of West Virginia. It is an exciting time for Energy Express.
In 2020, the pandemic eliminated the possibility of in-person programming and remote platforms were integrated, bringing value-added benefits to the program. More than 2,400 children from 38 counties in West Virginia participated in the program last year, with 65% of those children maintaining or increasing their reading levels. In addition, the Energy Express program distributed over 30,200 weekly themed take-out books, and WVU Extension Service and West Virginia Public Broadcasting have partnered to bring Energy Express programming to West Virginia youth and their families in a novel, yet engaging, format – all from the safety and comfort of their own homes.
âWe would like to thank Senators Capito and Manchin for their unwavering support for the continuation of the AmeriCorps program. Without it, we would not have been able to compete for AmeriCorps funding for Energy Express, âsaid Rob Alsop, vice president of strategic initiatives at WVU. âWe know that having strong reading skills is a foundation for future success. Energy Express provides children in West Virginia with a fun learning environment where they can use their creativity and imagination to overcome the “summer slip” that often occurs when young people fall behind in school between school years. This award is great news for WVU, the Energy Express program and the young people it serves.
The 2021 summer program runs from June 21 to July 30 and will be offered at nearly 50 locations across West Virginia. Children entering Grades 1 through 4 (starting fall 2021) are eligible to participate in the program.
Energy Express is an award-winning program under the direction of the Office of the Dean and Director of WVU Extension Service. Dean of the WVU Extension Service Jorge H. Atiles noted that state, community and local support, coupled with the excellent programming, was essential for this award.
“We are grateful to have the support of WVU, community leaders and others who believe in our Energy Express program, and we were fortunate to get this AmeriCorps grant again after a period of struggle to fund this program â , said Atiles. âOur team worked hard to come up with a very competitive and compelling proposal that resulted in this funding. We are excited about the future of Energy Express.
The program is funded, in part, by grants and donations from individuals, private foundations and businesses through the West Virginia University Foundation and Volunteer West Virginia, the premier agency for volunteerism and national service in West Virginia.
CONTACT: Tara Curtis
WVU Extension Service
304-293-7996; [email protected]
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