Assoc. Features Editor
Approximately 46 million Americans currently live in poverty. AmeriCorps is a federal program designed to fight poverty in America, which engages more than 80,000 Americans in intensive service each year at nonprofits, schools, public agencies and community and faith-based groups across the country.
Millersville University’s office of Experiential Learning and Career Management (ELCM) is the host site of an AmeriCorps VISTA member, Jess Yorks, who is here to build and strengthen partnerships between Millersville University, the School District of Lancaster and community organizations by recruiting Millersville students to serve children at after-school programs in the community, with the overall goal to increase children’s academic achievement.
“My goal is to increase the academic achievement of at-risk K-12 youth in the community by sending Millersville University student volunteers to serve as mentors at various after-school locations. This program will be incredibly beneficial for the underprivileged youth because increasing educational success is one of the surest ways out of poverty,” said Yorks.
VISTA was founded as Volunteers in Service to America in 1965 as a national service program designed specifically to fight poverty in America. In 1993, VISTA was incorporated into the AmeriCorps network of programs. VISTA has been on the front lines in the fight against poverty in America for more than 45 years.
Since the program’s founding, more than 800,000 AmeriCorps members have contributed more than 1 billion hours in service across America, while undertaking pressing issues and assembling millions of volunteers for the organizations they serve.
Based on the free and reduced school lunch program, 81% of children in the School District of Lancaster currently live in or very close to poverty.
Often, when families lack sufficient income, they cannot provide valuable resources and opportunities to their children. Moreover, some of these children may come from households in which education, art, music and physical activity are not stressed or even valued. Sadly, many of these children are also facing a reality where they have not adults or positive role models in their lives who take time to get involved in their daily activities, let alone believe in them or encourage them.
“This opportunity is a great way for students to get involved, give back to the community and work on something larger than them. It is also a useful teaching tool for them, especially if they’re considering working with youth in their careers,” said Yorks.
There are a lot of opportunities available for Millersville students to get involved and explore their interests by mentoring youth through opportunities such as: providing academic enrichment services like tutoring and homework help, teaching youth voice and music lessons, running sports and dance programs, teaching and educating youth through original and fun lessons, teaching and creating art and creative projects and helping the children to grow a sustainable and healthy school garden.
Yorks also stated, “If students qualify for federal work study, they can get paid for this experience!”
If you are interested in joining the program or want more information, you can contact Jess Yorks, at 717-872-3271 or ELCM.Vista@millersville.edu.