PRESTONSBURG — Members of UNITE’s Service Corps have been tutors, teachers, mentors and coaches throughout this past school year.
“They have educated, they have been role models, and they have served,” said Nancy Hale, UNITE president/CEO, during a year-end celebration for the AmeriCorps program on June 4 at the Mountain Arts Center in Prestonsburg.
As drug prevention educators “you have been the messenger” to thousands of elementary school students, said Hale, who served as Co-Program Director until earlier this year. “Kids who receive drug education early are far more likely to avoid drugs later in life.”
“Doing community service not only makes a difference to those who are being served, but to those who provide the service,” Hale concluded. “Everything you do, everything you say is going to have a lasting impact forever.”
For the 2014-15 school year, the UNITE Service Corps placed 44 AmeriCorps members at schools in Bell, Breathitt, Harlan, Johnson, Knott, Laurel, Leslie, Owsley, Perry, Pike, Rockcastle and Wolfe counties, as well as the East Bernstadt Independent school system.
AmeriCorps members provide math tutoring, teach the “Too Good for Drugs” and “Healthy Futures/Take 10” wellness curriculums, and coordinate anti-drug UNITE Clubs. In addition, members participate in their local UNITE Community Coalitions and recruit caregivers who provide thousands of hours for school prevention activities.
As of mid-year, the most recent stats available, UNITE Service Corps members had tutored 2,459 students in math and provided mentoring to 3,815 students, said Eugene Newsome, USC Program Director. The overall growth in math test scores was 42.42% — the highest rate of success for individual students in program history – and the average increase in drug education knowledge was 40.53%.
“This is a very good day, but also a very sad day,” said UNITE Education Director Debbie Trusty. “We celebrate what you have done, but are sad that we say good-bye to so many excellent members.”
The event was also an opportunity to introduce Melinda Kincer, a retired Rockcastle County educator, as the new UNITE Service Corps co-program director.
Two second-year AmeriCorps members – Cary Hughes (Valley Elementary in Pike County) and Michelle Martin (Mt. Vernon Elementary in Rockcastle County) – were honored with “Hal Rogers Difference Maker” awards. Named for U.S. Congressman Harold “Hal” Rogers, the awards recognize “the tireless efforts of people in southern and eastern Kentucky who go above and beyond the call of duty to make a life-changing impact in our region.”
Marlana VanHoose, an Eastern Kentucky native, performed several inspiring songs during the celebration.
Blind since birth, VanHoose was not expected to live longer than one year. But, by age two she had taught herself to play piano and has established herself as a nationally acclaimed performer.
The 19-year-old VanHoose is a member of the Artist Music Guild where she was the 2012 recipient for New Artist of the Year and Young Artist of the Year. She also was a 2013 nominee for Artist of the Year.
AmeriCorps is a national service program administered by the Kentucky Commission on Community Volunteerism and Service (KCCVS), part of the Cabinet for Health and Family Services, and the federal Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS).
Wendy Spencer, Chief Executive Officer of CNCS, lauded the UNITE Service Corps during a community celebration held this past May in Manchester.
“By harnessing the power of AmeriCorps and community volunteers, UNITE has developed a winning strategy to help thousands of Kentucky youth keep away from drugs and stay on track in school,” Spencer said. “UNITE’s AmeriCorps program is a model for communities across the nation working to fight drug abuse, and I salute UNITE’s AmeriCorps members and volunteers for their impact and success.”
For more information about Operation UNITE visit their website at operationunite.org.