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Learning Doesn’t Take A Summer Break

Kaitlyn Thompson

West Virginia is known for taking care of its people in times of need. Across the state, volunteers line up to help hundreds of people for several reasons, but in some cases, students are those who are in need of the most support.

During the summer, schools across the state open their doors to give students the opportunity to improve their reading skills and receive meals each day they attend Energy Express. Energy Express is an eight-week summer and nutrition program for W.Va.’s low-income, rural areas. Students who are subject to living in low-income, rural communities often suffer nutritionally and decline academically. This program strives to improve on this issue and allows students to attend a local school to advance their reading skills in a more creative and captivating way.

Energy Express is supportive in student success. The program focuses on reading and related subjects, serving family-style, nutritious meals two times a day, working with children in small groups, involving the community members and the youth in student learning, making reading imaginative and fun and increasing family involvement.

Every summer, over 3,000 children statewide are serviced with the opportunities Energy Express has to offer. In 2016, 37 counties supported 81 program sites. The same year, 76 percent of attendees were eligible for reduced price and free meals every day, 21 percent of children had individual educational plans (IEP) and 65 percent of children increased their reading achievements.

One way Energy Express encourages reading achievement is by sending books home with attendees. On average, there are 19,976 books sent home with students so that they may progress their reading abilities on their own as well as at school. Not only are these students able to receive free meals, but they are afforded the chance to improve themselves for a better future.

Attending Energy Express can be an enjoyable and fun learning experience for students and volunteers. People ages 18 and up can volunteer as AmeriCorps members to be mentors for these young learners or sign up to be community coordinators. Mentors work directly with the children, and community coordinators serve directly with volunteers. If chosen, both mentor and community coordinator volunteers receive a living allowance of $1,850 and an educational scholarship of $1,252.91. There are around 500 AmeriCorps community and college student members, and over 2,500 family and non-AmeriCorps community members who volunteer their time to enrich the lives of young school-age children.

This summer, there are four Wood County schools running the Energy Express reading program: Martin, McKinley, Mineral Wells and Neale. Surrounding counties that also host Energy Express are Wirt, Ritchie and Pleasants.

With over 2,500 volunteers and nearly 3,000 students being served every summer, Energy Express is a program that strives to attend to students across W.Va. each year. Through evaluation results, it is proved that students enrolled in the program maintain or expand their overall reading skills (My AmeriCorps, 2018). Just because it is during the summer does not mean young children shouldn’t take advantage of the fun Energy Express has to offer.


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