Mississippi’s young students are building a strong foundation for future educational success with the help of America Reads—Mississippi (ARM) AmeriCorps members, who in turn receive scholarships to help them pursue their own degrees.
AmeriCorps, the federal agency for volunteering and national service, recently announced continued funding for the America-Reads Mississippi program, which will soon enter its 23rd year of helping Mississippi children get their education off to a strong start and helping AmeriCorps members complete their educational goals of completing a bachelor’s degree.
“This grant represents an investment in the success of our state’s students along the P-20 continuum and builds community connections among the universities, local K-12 schools, tutors and students,” said Dr. Alfred Rankins Jr., Commissioner of Higher Education. “Additionally, many of the AmeriCorps members go on to become certified K-12 teachers in Mississippi classrooms, which aids in addressing current teacher shortage.”
Managed by the Institutions of Higher Learning staff, America Reads—Mississippi has demonstrated educational service collaboration between universities, local elementary schools and districts, and community organizations. Their work is coordinated through four regional university offices, including Jackson State University, Mississippi State University, The University of Southern Mississippi, and Delta State University, which is returning as a regional office this year.
Since 1998, more than 4,900 AmeriCorps members have given at least one year of service and served more than 63,000 K-3rd grade students, tutoring them during the school day and in after-school programs. AmeriCorps members have received approximately $17.4 million in education award scholarships, which have allowed them to achieve their dreams of earning a degree, during that time. Many of the scholarship recipients have utilized these funds to gain the credentials necessary to become certified teachers.
“The ability to read by third grade is critical to a child’s success in school, life-long learning potential, and their ability to contribute to the state’s economy,” said Dr. Casey Prestwood, Associate Commissioner for Academic and Student Affairs. “America Reads—Mississippi provides K-3rd grade students with a key to their future by focusing on improving their literacy skills. ARM also provides a great opportunity for Mississippians to pursue higher education while serving as literacy tutors. This is a great service to Mississippi and the future of our state.”
On the horizon of reaching its 25th year of service in 2023, America Reads—Mississippi will expand its efforts over the next two years to reconnect with more than 4,900 AmeriCorps alumni, determine the number of members who have become certified teachers or work in education-related fields; and conduct an impact evaluation to measure program effectiveness on improving the literacy skills of students and on increasing the educational and professional skills of AmeriCorps members for future pursuits.
“In the end, we only regret the chances we don’t take,” said Antoinette Nicholas, An AmeriCorps member, 2019-2021. “AmeriCorps took a chance on me and gave me the greatest gift I could have ever imagined: A chance to give freely and unconditionally for two years as an AmeriCorps member and now as a certified teacher. I am thankful.”