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AmeriCorps still getting things done for county

Since 1997, the AmeriCorps Instructional Support Team (AIST) has been the added ingredient for success in the Butler County School District.

AmeriCorps is the domestic Peace Corps which provides opportunities for Americans to make an intensive commitment to service.

The AmeriCorps network of local, state, and national service programs engages more than 70,000 Americans in intensive service each year.

AmeriCorps members serve through more than 3,000 non profits, public agencies, and faith-based and other community organizations, helping meet critical needs in education, public safety, health and the environment.

The variety of service opportunities is almost unlimited.

Members may tutor and mentor youth, build affordable housing, teach computer skills, clean parks and streams, run after-school programs, or help communities respond to disasters.

In Butler County, AIST has addressed the specific need of school success for ten years and is currently participating in their eleventh year.

AmeriCorps members serve as instructional assistants in the classroom beginning with Butler County Board of Education’s First Steps program (birth through age three), Bright Beginnings program (pre-K), and kindergarten through 2nd grade at four campuses (Butler County Education and Community Center, R. L. Austin Elementary, McKenzie, W. O. Parmer Elementary, Greenville Elementary) and Greenville Head Start.

You will find members assisting teachers by leading small groups in alphabet recognition for lower and upper case, writing and sounding letters for example, assisting in school libraries, computer labs, in the classroom plus serving in the extended day programs at each site.

Members work closely with each school’s reading coach in order to lend a helping hand to all teachers who need extra assistance in the classroom. Members also take home “activity” work (i.e. creating word cards, cutting out letters, etc.) in order to assist student learning in the classroom.

AmeriCorps members are well-trained in disaster preparedness.

Gov. Bob Riley is the number one fan in the State of Alabama.

He and Sydney Hoffman, Executive Director, of the Governor’s Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives have seen first hand how AmeriCorps members provided assistance when Hurricanes Ivan and Katrina hit the state coast and the Greenville area.

He has mandated AmeriCorps members be trained in Community Emergency Response Training (CERT in order to be available in disaster response, recovery, and /or mitigation activities. Governor Riley recognized the “outstanding efforts and contributions to the citizens of Alabama and beyond. I applaud AmeriCorps Instructional Support Team’s dedication to the children of Butler County”.

20 AmeriCorps members serve the Butler County Board of Education for a twelve month cycle serving at least 1,700 service hours (40 hours per week).

Upon completion of their service hours, members receive the Segal Education Award in the amount of $4,725 to go directly to a school of higher learning.

Members also recruit, train and manage at least 40 community volunteers each service year.

These community volunteers serve along side AIST members assisting children in the classroom, reading, listening to students read, or in preschool, assisting in center time, small groups and with special events at the school site and at community events.

To date, AmeriCorps members have recruited over 85 community volunteers who have served over 26,658 service hours for the Butler County community.

AmeriCorps members are on the scene when Main Street USA sponsors their annual fall event for the county-wide community. Nancy Idland, Director, claims AmeriCorps is one of the main reasons their major fundraising event is successful when the members provide extra “man power” to assist with arts and crafts for children.

During the summer, Dunbar Recreational Center depends on AmeriCorps to assist with their summer enrichment program.

During the past ten years, 220 AmeriCorps Instructional Support Team members have served over 307,363 service hours making a difference in the lives of rural Butler County public school students, teachers, and their parents in some small way.

All these small advances add up to one great big wave of action–a change washing over this community, county, people becoming safer, smarter, and healthier because of AmeriCorps.