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The independent student news site of San Diego Mesa College.

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Mesa students can help the community by joining AmeriCorps

AmeriCorps is now available to Mesa students who want to earn extra money for tuition and help out in elementary schools.

“[AmeriCorps] provides Mesa college students with a great opportunity to enjoy the rewards of service, earn some extra money for their educational expenses, and make a difference in the lives of children in need,” AmeriCorps Program Director Danene Soares said.

AmeriCorps is a national program that works to address the problems in education, public safety, health, and the environment. According to Americorps.org, each year more then 70,000 people take part in AmeriCorps programs across the country.

According to AmeriCorps.org, the purpose of AmeriCorps is to engage members in direct service to address unmet community needs.

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After completing 300 of the 450 hours required by the program members will receive $1,000 to $1,250 for their education.

“Our goal is to give Mesa students an opportunity to make a difference in our community,” said Mesa AmeriCorps Program Assistant, Cody Dolnick. “They get work experience for their resume and an education award.”

Mesa students travel to Ross Elementary School, Linda Vista Annex, and Central Elementary School to work with children from kindergarten to third grade.

“We’re always branching out to new schools if we have the members,” said Dolnick.

The members must spend at least 10 hours a week in a classroom helping children improve on their math and reading.

Currently the program has 11 participants.

“My goal is to have this project take serious roots in the campus community and have our enrollment steadily increase over the next few years,” Dolnick said.

Dolnick said he hopes the program will be available next year if everything goes well this year.

This branch of AmeriCorps started at Mesa in March 2006 to recruit students to address the serious math and literacy problems by tutoring children at local elementary schools.

The original AmeriCorps grant began about five years ago. It only dealt with literacy problems; the new one has added mathematics.

“It’s a wonderful opportunity,” Soares said. “I wish I had known about it when I was in college.”

According to Dolnick, this is the only AmeriCorps program in the San Diego Community College District.

The Fall 2006 semester is the first full semester of recruitment for the program. Students have until June 2007 to complete their required hours.

“New members can join anytime but they won’t have as many weeks to be able to complete their hours,” Dolnick said.

In order to be a part of AmeriCorps, Mesa students must: attend mandatory training sessions, attend weekly meetings with the program director and instructors, maintain time sheets for training and tutoring hours, meet requirements of the schools they tutor at, conduct assessments of the children they tutor, work with other members to help assist parents in helping their children learn to read, and receive support and services if they want to transfer into teacher preparation programs at a four-year university.

“[Students] learn firsthand what’s going on in their communities and discover how they are the one’s with the power to effect change in our society,” said Soares.

All Mesa students are eligible to join AmeriCorps as long as they: are at least 17-years-old, have a minimum GPA of 2.0, proficient oral and written communication skills, have sufficient math skills, willing to undergo a Department of Justice background check, and a strong commitment to the program.

“To me [AmeriCorps] means an opportunity for being a full participant as a citizen,” said Dolnick. “I see AmeriCorps as an opportunity for Mesa College student to make a genuine difference in their community and learn about the intrinsic rewards of service to others.”

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