AmeriCorps reaches out to students to volunteer

AmeriCorps programs are being launched statewide in an effort to recruit more volunteers and tutors to help Minnesota children in reading and math. This means that Gustavus students are welcome to take an initiative in these new programs for the 2011-2012 school year.

The two programs, Minnesota Reading Corps (MRC) and Minnesota Math Corps (MMC), are recruiting over 900 tutors across Minnesota. The Minnesota Reading Corps, already one of the largest AmeriCorps programs in terms of volunteers and tutors, is looking to up their numbers dramatically, with an initial number of 670 trained volunteers working with more than 25,000 children since 2003. The Minnesota Math Corps has expanded to 50 tutors since it began three years ago in 2008 and is looking to double their size to 100 by the next school year.

Both MRC and MMC are headed under the Minnesota Education Corps, a collaborative effort to help Minnesotan children who are struggling in reading or math to excel academically. Partnering with local schools and school districts, AmeriCorps members are placed and trained to implement research-based math and reading strategies for students from Pre-K to eigth grade. Both corps work to ensure that Minnesota children are on track to read by the end of third grade and are algebra-ready by eighth. Current members are serving statewide, working closely with students to provide essential one-on-one and small-group tutoring to help them become successful in school and in life.

“Right now we’ve placed 670 tutors,” Recruitment and Outreach Manager of Minnesota Reading Corps Anna Peters said. “Next year we will place over 800, so just an increase of 130.” The Minnesota Reading Corps is planning to hire 800 tutors by this fall and have these new members begin their service in August. “Tutors spend several days studying and learning research-based techniques to improve early literacy instructions to read more effectively. It’s important to be able to do so, especially during kindergarten through to third grade, to bring them up to speed,” Peters said.

Minnesota Reading Corps partners with St. Peter, Mankato and 140 other locations across the state. “What we’re seeing is that one out of four students in Minnesota is not reading at grade level,” Peters said. “It’s critical that kids learn to read after third grade because without those literacy skills in place, it’s really hard to learn. To ensure this, we’re increasing the numbers of tutors that we place [in the schools].” Not only will this be beneficial to job-seeking college graduates, but it will also improve the state’s literacy rate.

Besides the two corps, AmeriCorps has many other ways to make a difference.

“We help struggling people look for help, helping them to find food shelves [and other] resources,” Matt Beachey ’10 said. Beachey was recruited into a portion of the AmeriCorps program called Bridges to Self-Sufficiency. “It’s about tutoring people, helping kids who are behind and getting them back on track. I thought it’d be a good thing to do after college to give back.”

As a part of this specific program, Beachey to serves 1,700 hours in whatever way he can in his one-year schedule. He works full time and is planning on finishing his duties as a volunteer by summer. “You’ll meet a lot of teachers and staff members, which is a great way to get your foot in the door. It’s an introductory level to whatever you’re doing. They train you a lot when you join, and you also get paid a stipend that goes into paying off tuition and loans, so that’s really nice.”

Beachey helps spread awareness of food support programs and lets people know about outreach programs that they would not have been exposed to otherwise. “I like it,” Beachey said. “It’s a rewarding experience, a great way to get into work right out of college that’s only a one-year commitment and gives you opportunities to make connections in the real world.”

A number of Gustavus students and alumni have volunteered for various after graduating. “Graduating seniors receive $5,500 as well as an education award while serving for either program,” Sarah Anderson from Bellmont Partners Public Relations said. “The year that volunteers are serving, they’ll receive a stipend, as well. Minnesota Education Corps wants well over 900 new tutors for the next year, and Gustavus students are definitely encouraged to volunteer. We are reaching [out] to college newspapers to get students interested who want to talk about their tutor experience, how they’ve liked working as a tutor and why others should look into this opportunity.”

For more information and to find out how you can volunteer to be a tutor, visit the MN Education Corps website.