Students learn from summer of service

In just a few weeks, Arielle Hunter has affirmed that her goal to become a teacher is the right one.

The recent Paine College graduate said working with children at Shiloh Comprehensive Community Center has shown her the need for passionate advocates for children.

"I think it's important for us to be here, because these kids need a positive role model," she said. "They may be getting it at home, but we're here for reinforcement."

Hunter is one of 10 AmeriCorps Volunteers in Service to America summer associates working with at-risk children at Augusta agencies. The program's main goal is to fight poverty and promote education.

The United Way of the CSRA received $35,000 in stimulus funds to offer scholarships and stipends to college students who assist programs at Shiloh, Boys & Girls Clubs, Hope House, MACH Academy, SafeHomes of Augusta and The Berry Center, said Joan Stoddard, a community building coordinator for United Way. The volunteers will clock a total of 3,000 hours serving the 400 students at the agencies.

"There's a growing number of people who need help with putting their children in summer programs that are engaging them," Stoddard said. "These agencies do not have enough employees to serve the need in the summer, so these young people are a great help."

Last summer, the VISTA program placed seven volunteers at agencies serving more than 300 children, said local VISTA leader Dorothy Gibson. Volunteers help with educational programming, mentorship and administrative needs. Volunteers receive a biweekly $392 stipend and a $1,132 scholarship.

"They end the summer with a sense of responsibility, and they give children a sense of direction," Gibson said.

Monica Grant-Bey, a VISTA associate, said she wants to inspire young people to look beyond their circumstances. She is heading the "Mama, I Want to Go to College" writing contest at Shiloh.

"The first thing out their mouth needs to be 'I want to go to college,' " she said. "If we want to save the next generation, you have to have these sorts of programs."

Derricka Lambert, a rising fourth-grader at Wilkinson Gardens Elementary School, said the volunteers have kept her on track working on her core subjects at Shiloh.

"I talk to them about my work and my life," she said. "I like talking to them and hugging them. I like having them here."

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