AmeriCorps was founded in 1993 to provide opportunities for Americans of all ages and backgrounds to serve their communities. Programs include AmeriCorps and AmeriCorps VISTA, National Civilian Community Corps, FEMA Corps, and Senior Corps. The mission of AmeriCorps is to improve lives, strengthen communities, and foster civic engagement through service and volunteering.
October 1, ALA began our 19th year as an AmeriCorps program. Arkansas Reads has been providing members to literacy councils to tutor, train, and recruit students and tutors to their programs. For many councils, their members have allowed the council to keep the door open. In total, approximately 620 members have served in the Arkansas Reads program.
This year, 20 members will serve at Literacy Action of Central Arkansas (Little Rock and Conway), Ozark Literacy Council (Fayetteville), Literacy Council of Western Arkansas (Fort Smith), River Valley Adult Learning Alliance (Dardanelle), Literacy Council of Bowie & Miller Counties (Texarkana), and the Literacy Council of Garland County (Hot Springs).
Belinda Sanders, ALA Program Director, has directed the program for the last 13 years. Recently, Belinda shared her thoughts on the Arkansas Reads Program: “The last 13 years has been a rewarding experience in a number of ways. The sheer fact that we have had some really awesome AmeriCorps members, whom I have had the opportunity to watch grow and flourish, is worth more than gold to me! Another reason is that I have gotten to see lives changed, communities made better and “helping your neighbor” by any means necessary really being carried out. Through the combined efforts of our local literacy councils and AmeriCorps members, the needs of the students they serve goes way beyond the tutoring they are receiving.”
Our site supervisors, typically a staff person at each council, provide oversight and mentorship to their members. They train them in the areas of adult tutoring, outreach, training, and life skills. Providing members with skills and knowledge to use in their future education and career. What has been exciting for ALA is when a member has completed their term with Arkansas Reads and moved on to become literacy council staff, in most cases, the Executive Director.
We are thankful to EngageAR, our funding partner, for their continued support of the Arkansas Reads program. Together, we are helping community based literacy councils, around the state, provide the necessary help they need to serve adult learners in their communities.