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Energy Express Will Return To Wetzel Schools

By Staff | Feb 4, 2015

Several Wetzel County students will have a chance to continue learning this summer as plans are underway to bring Energy Express back to Wetzel County.

Wetzel County’s WVU Extension Agent Mollie Toppe, along with Wetzel County Director of Curriculum and Instruction, Pre-K, and Title I Shane Highley, presented an overview of the plans to the Wetzel County Board of Education at their meeting Monday night.

Highley stated that Energy Express is an eight-week AmeriCorps summer reading program promoting the school success of West Virginia children living in rural and low-income communities.

He further stated that research has shown that during the summer, many children fall behind academically, suffer nutritionally, and lack a safe and secure environment. Energy Express’ Mission states that it “promotes the success of children living in rural and low-income communities by providing summer learning experiences and nutritious meals.”

Toppe stated that Energy Express incorporates place-based curriculum, family style meals, service, small groups, and parent and community involvement collaboration.

It also involves a print-rich atmosphere. Toppe added that weekly themes will include topics such as: Myself, Homeplace, Family, Community, Friends, and Making My World a Better Place. Nutritious family-style meals help to teach responsibility, develop cooperation, and encourage conversation.

Highley stated that the program in its entirety is eight weeks long, with two of those weeks being for them mentors to train, plan, and connect with the families and community.

A typical day during the six-week children’s program would include the following: 8-8:30 a.m., site team arrives; 8:30-9 a.m., children arrive, family-style breakfast; 9-11:30 a.m., print-rich activities; 11:30 a.m. to noon; family-style lunch, children depart; and noon to 2 p.m., site team meetings, planning, reflection, and connecting with families and the community.

Highley stated that the program, for children entering first through sixth grade, involves small groups of six to eight children in a non-competitive environment. Children are grouped by age.

Parent and community involvement will include family visits, weekly connections with families, and volunteer opportunities.

Mentors must be 18 years of age or older, a United States citizen, and full-time undergraduate or college-bound graduating high school senior.

Mentors develop, implement, and evaluate reading-related print-rich activities and build strong relationships with children, parents, and the community.

Mentors also promote the nutritional well-being of children and engage in outreach to parents through family visits.

Community Coordinators must be 18 years of age or older, a United States citizen, and must have a high school diploma or equivalent.

An Energy Express site is made up of 40 to 64 elementary age children, one site coordinator, one or two community coordinators, five to eight mentors, family and community members as volunteers, and local partners.

Community coordinators build relationships with families and members of the community, connect parents and community members to the site, involve parents in their children’s learning, and recruit, train, and supervise volunteers who will perform read aloud sessions, one-on-one reading, taking dictation, and other site activities.

Community coordinators and mentors attend statewide training, complete a minimum of 300 hours of service, are a positive role model for Energy Express children and volunteers, and engage in outreach to children’s families through family visits and follow-up communications, as well as the site open house.

Community coordinators and mentors receive a living allowance, a National Service education award, ample training before and during the program, and valuable service experience.

Highley state that 70 percent of the funding for Energy Express would come from AmeriCorps, with the additional 30 percent coming from his Title I funds.

It is anticipated that Wetzel County’s Energy Express will create 18 jobs. The county will have three different sites: Paden City Elementary School, Short Line School, and Long Drain School.