Youth Achievement AmeriCorps

What is AmeriCorps?

AmeriCorps is a national service program, similar to the Peace Corps. Each year, over 80,000 individuals of all ages and backgrounds join AmeriCorps to serve at local and national nonprofits across the U.S. In return, AmeriCorps members receive a living allowance to help cover their bills, and an Education Award of up to $5,550 to pay for college, graduate school, or to pay back qualified student loans.

What is the Youth Achievement AmeriCorps?

United Way was awarded a federal AmeriCorps grant to begin the Youth Achievement AmeriCorps program in September 2011. The Youth Achievement AmeriCorps program leverages the committed service of 10 full-time AmeriCorps members who provide academic support to low-income children and families through early literacy programming, literacy and math tutoring, and enrichment programming in an effort to decrease the achievement gap and get kids on track academically and developmentally. Each Youth Achievement AmeriCorps member serves 1700 hours over the course of the year providing service in the Cedar Rapids community.

What has the Youth Achievement AmeriCorps done?

Over the past two years, The Youth Achievement AmeriCorps program has achieved promising results.

Birth to Five Years Old
Issue: Kindergarten preparedness in Cedar Rapids

The Strategy: The Youth Achievement AmeriCorps program increases outreach to low-income parents and provides instruction, materials and books to improve the practice of early language and learning skills in young children to ensure they are on-track for school through a program called RED Ahead. RED Ahead (Read Every Day to get Ahead) is an early literacy program that provides support for low-income parents to help their children, ages birth to five, develop language and literacy skills that support kindergarten readiness.

The results (FY2013):

  • Enrollment goals exceeded:
    • In year two, RED Ahead again surpassed its projected goal of serving 600 with 1,036 active families enrolled in RED Ahead as of June 30, 2013.
  • Books delivered: 3,815 books were delivered to children between July 1, 2012 and June 30, 2013.
  • Parental behavior changes:
    • 93% of parents reported they “feel more prepared to support [their] child’s language development and pre-reading skills”
    • 98% of parents practiced additional RED Ahead activities with children
  • Children are growing and learning
    • 93% of children maintained or demonstrated developmental progress in language and early literacy skills
    • 100% of children maintained or demonstrated developmental progress in gross motor skills

Literacy and Math Tutoring
Issue: Persistent achievement gap in Cedar Rapids

To address the achievement gap the Youth Achievement AmeriCorps program implements the following strategies:

  • The Reading Strategy: The Youth Achievement AmeriCorps program works to increase the number of low-income students who are proficient in reading by investing significant time and service in two local elementary schools. AmeriCorps members perform one-on-one or small group tutoring based on student needs using effective tutoring techniques that correspond with school curriculum.
  • The Math Strategy: Middle School plays a pivotal role in reducing the achievement gap, improving high school graduation rates, and meeting future job demands. To address middle-school math gaps, two full-time Youth Achievement AmeriCorps members serve at McKinley Middle School, identified as a School in Need of Assistance (SINA) for math with average proficiency rates of low-income students at 49%. Members provide math tutoring in small group and one-on-one settings based on preliminary benchmark testing.
  • The STEM Strategy: Youth Achievement AmeriCorps members engage McKinley Middle School students in a summer STEM Academy. In 2012-2013 two different sessions, GPS and Natural Energy, were offered. The STEM Academy programming includes projects, speakers, and interactive trips to local businesses such as Rockwell Collins, Kirkwood Community College, and Alliant Energy, designed to engage students in fields that are in high demand in the local workforce.

The results (2012- 2013 School year):

  • Elementary Tutoring:
    • Overall, 89% of children tested improved their reading scores from fall to spring.
    • The average growth of 1st graders in the intervention increased by 5.7 reading levels, more than one whole reading level above those not receiving AmeriCorps intervention.
    • 100% of 1st graders who worked with Youth Achievement AmeriCorps members showed improvement in reading over the course of the year.
    • 100% of teachers whose students received literacy support from an AmeriCorps member stated that the AmeriCorps member contributed to an increase in literacy skills.
  • Elementary and Middle School:
    • Over 1,100 hours of in-school tutoring and academic support provided by AmeriCorps members
    • Over 871 students impacted through academic support
  • Middle School:
    • 34 students explored science, engineering and math careers through the McKinley Summer STEM Academy which doubled its duration from last year.

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How does the Youth Achievement Corps fit into United Way’s community goals?

United Way has one education goal for our community:

  • Increase the number of children who are on track developmentally and academically by 4th grade by 30%.

AmeriCorps members with the Youth Achievement Corps are working toward these goals by supporting two early learning programs: RED Ahead and Play & Learn. AmeriCorps members also tutor students who are below proficiency in reading or math, so that they can catch up to their peers and be prepared to succeed in school and life.