Monday, May 7, 2012: AMERICORPS IN MINNESOTA: A Homebound Peace Corps?

It’s tough to tout a program that places such a premium on volunteerism and/or minimal recompense for work often required of certified teachers, but this week, we talk about this very program of using young people help kids get into and out of higher education and working out of several youth oriented non profits as well as the public schools.

We hear quite a bit, on and off, about the AmeriCorps program, which has its roots in the original VISTA – Volunteers in Service to America – program – a sort of Peace Corps for the domestic side – right here in US cities and communities.

In St. Paul alone, some 21 local groups deploy AmeriCorps/VISTA members to help fulfill various missions – most of them directly involving young people. The City of St. Paul has an AmeriCorps coordinator heading up an effort to assist in what the City calls its commitment to education –

Improve the quality and depth of learning opportunities available to youth in Saint Paul, and
Increase access to high-quality learning opportunities for all Saint Paul children, especially at-risk and vulnerable youth.
There seem to be so many young people needing just that sort of thing, and one of the major helps they need is that of college attainment. Often, it seems, an extra push or some extra counseling or some success in testing is the difference between getting into college and simply making it through high school.

One of the organizations supplying such assistance is College Possible (formerly Admission Possible), and it uses copious quantities of AmeriCorps members in counseling high school students in reaching for what might otherwise be an elusive entrée into higher education.

TTT’s ANDY DRISCOLL and MICHELLE ALIMORADI query some of the people behind these efforts in St. Paul and elsewhere about the benefits, challenges and policy implications of putting AmeriCorps volunteers (actually paid stipends for a year’s service), often themselves recent college graduates, in the schools and other community organizations to help kids move into colleges and careers.

On-air guests:
SARA DZIUK – Executive Director, College Possible–Twin Cities
WILLIAM TULLY – AmeriCorps Manager in the St. Paul Mayor’s Office
FATIMA OMAR – College Possible graduate, now an AmeriCorps member working for College Possible