August 14, 2013

Grant will support 20-40 AmeriCorps volunteers at North Anson school

By Rachel Ohm rohm@centralmaine.com
Staff Writer

NORTH ANSON — It takes a village to raise a child, but it takes a plan to resurrect a school.

click image to enlarge

Carrabec High School Principal Regina Campbell and Superintendent Ken Coville said they are tremendously pleased that the school in North Anson was chosen as one of four in the state to share a $2.2 million federal grant. The grant will bring 20 to 40 AmeriCorps volunteers to the high school this school year.

Staff photo by Jeff Pouland

click image to enlarge

Carrabec High School Principal Regina Campbell talks about a federal grant that will bring 20 to 40 AmeriCorps volunteers to her school this year. The grant was announced at a press conference on Wednesday in North Anson. Looking on is school board member Bob Demchak, left, and Ethan Strimling, CEO of Learning Works, right. Strimling's organization will administer the grant.

Staff photo by Jeff Pouland

Twenty to 40 positions with AmeriCorps, a federally run service program, are open to volunteers at Carrabec High School beginning this fall.

The positions, made possible through a $2.2 million grant that Carrabec will share with four other Maine schools, are designed to bring additional resources to the district through AmeriCorps’ School Turnaround Program.

The program is targeted specifically at aiding schools that have records of low performance. It places more than 650 volunteers around the country each year, according to the organization’s website.

AmeriCorps, which is run by the Corporation for National and Community Service, has about 75,000 volunteers nationwide who work in a variety of fields, including disaster services, environmental stewardship and economic opportunity, as well as education.

Anyone over 17, including seniors at Carrabec High School, is eligible to apply to become an AmeriCorps volunteer, said Ethan Strimling, chief operating officer for Learning Works, a Portland-based educational group that will oversee the grant.

Volunteers receive a moderate living allowance, and in some cases a housing allowance; and they are eligible for Segal AmeriCorps Education Awards that can be used to pay for college or to repay student loans. The awards are issued based on the number of hours volunteered. They also can be transferred from volunteers over 55 to pay for a child’s or a grandchild’s educational costs.

Those interested in volunteering can contact Strimling at Learning Works at 775-0105 or estrimling@learningworks.me, or Regina Campbell at Carrabec High School at 635-2296 or rcampbell@carrabec.org.

Shared $2.2 million grant recipients:

Ellsworth High School in Ellsworth

Spruce Mountain High School in Jay

Carrabec High School in North Anson

East End Elementary School in Portland

Riverton Elementary School in Portland

That was the message at Carrabec High School, where it was announced Wednesday that the district will receive a federal grant to bring between 20 and 40 AmeriCorps volunteers to the school this year.

The district is one of four in the state that will share in a $2.2 million grant to be administered through Learning Works, a Portland-based educational organization. AmeriCorps is a federally run volunteer program whose goal is to overcome social and economic challenges in communities across the country.

“I am so thrilled with the possibilities this initiative is going to bring Carrabec High School. It will enable us to continue the work we have started to build relationships with and rigor for our students,” Principal Regina Campbell said.

Just three years ago, Carrabec failed to meet No Child Left Behind Act federal standards and was designated as a school in need of improvement; and although Maine recently received a two-year waiver from the act’s requirements, the school had made progress toward meeting them.

A federal grant of $726,800 allowed the school to add eight advanced placement courses, dual-enrollment classes at Thomas College and Kennebec Valley Community College and 11 honors-level courses.

The graduation rate has increased nine percentage points, from 75 percent in 2009 to 84 percent in 2012, according to the Department of Education. Student proficiency rates measured by the SAT have increased from 17 percent in mathematics to 50 percent and from 17 percent in reading to 44 percent, according to Campbell.

The grant announced Wednesday will allow that progress to continue, Campbell said during a meeting with officials from Learning Works and the Maine Commission for Community Service, the state affiliate of the Corporation for Community Service, which runs the AmeriCorps program.

In its application for the grant, the high school was required to explain how it would use the money and the roles volunteers would take on in their school community. The district serves students in Anson, Embden, New Portland, North Anson and Solon.

Campbell said volunteers will work on four things — one-on-one tutoring, extended learning opportunities before and after school, community engagement and parent involvement.

She said volunteers will provide tutoring before and after school and on weekends in the hopes of having resources for students accessible around-the-clock through technology such as student iPhones and laptops. During the school day, they will run writing and mathematics laboratories and community service projects.

Volunteers are expected to start around the end of the first quarter of the coming school year, Campbell said. They haven’t been identified yet, but Learning Works chief executive officer Ethan Strimling said they are advertising all over the country.

School Administrative District 74 Superintendent Ken Coville said the award was applied for in mid-July through Learning Works, which will oversee the administration of the grant to Carrabec High School and four other schools in the state that received it. The others are Spruce Mountain High School in Jay, Ellsworth High School in Ellsworth, East End Elementary School in Portland and Riverton Elementary School in Portland.

Learning Works is a nonprofit organization that focuses on bringing educational opportunity to young children, at-risk youth and low-income families. They were one of 13 organizations in the nation to receive the grant, which will place more than 650 volunteers in schools across the U.S.

Mary Anne LaMarre, commissioner for the Maine Commission for Community Service, said that rural school districts often face tough competition in applying for federal grants.

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