MORGANTOWN — AmeriCorps volunteers from Energy Express began their summer service with a swearing-in ceremony at University High School Tuesday morning.
The volunteers — 500 of them — made a Pledge of Service in Morgantown or Charleston.
The summer the program of WVU Extension will host more than 80 Energy Express locations and service more than 3,000 kids. The eight-week program is free and helps children to keep their reading skills sharp and provides nutritious meals during summer months.
Opening remarks were made by Brent Clark, 4-H Youth Development director with WVU. Representatives from Sens. Joe Manchin and Shelley Moore Capito’s offices also made remarks.
Rachel Griffith, who served in Energy Express AmeriCorps at Kingwood Elementary, told her story about teaching kids to read.
Growing up, she said, her mom ran the local food pantry, and she was very active in community outreach programs. When Griffith wasn’t at 4-H in the summertime she was volunteering
“If she could find a way for us to donate our time, she signed us up and sent us,” said Griffith.
She said Energy Express was one of the programs where she spent countless hours volunteering. The years she spent at Energy Express had a huge impact on her life — she became a teacher with a passion for reading and spent the last 10 years working in early childhood education.
“There’s nothing more profound or rewarding than the moment a child’s eyes get real big and their smiles grow from excitement because they finally ‘got it’,” she said.
She told the volunteers that as educators, they will get to make a difference this summer, and to go out and let children know they are there for them and to remember that these children might not have any other ally.
Heather Foster, executive director of Volunteer West Virginia, said she learned through Energy Express that she was interested in service and will continue to be involved in service for the rest of her life.
“I wanted to take just a minute for you all to just think about your individual experience and how this summer will change you,” said Foster.
She encouraged the volunteers to take advantage of resources available to them through AmeriCorps. She said though they make an impact on the children of West Virginia, the experience will also impact them as volunteers.
Ending with keynote remarks and leading the AmeriCorps Pledge of Service at the end of the program was Kristi Wood Turner, director of WVU Center for Service and Learning.
“Over this summer you will come to know children in your group and you will want to be invested in having them succeed,” said Turner.