MORGANTOWN — Everybody’s having a good summer at Energy Express, according to Becca Fint-Clark, the extension agent for 4-H Youth Development.
Americorp members volunteer their time to engage kids in reading during the summer program to keep their skills sharp while school is out of session.
“You have to make it fun still, but kids still have to learn, and they are doing a wonderful job,” she said.
The program is fortunate to have great site teams this summer, she said.
This year in Mon County, the three Energy Express locations are Blacksville, Mylan Park and Skyview. Throughout the day, the curriculum is focused on art, writing and drama activities. The main goal is literacy and reading.
“Studies show that a lot of children, during the summer months, lose their reading comprehension. The whole goal of Energy Express is for children to not fall into the ‘summer slide,’ ” Fint-Clark said.
The children participate in fun activities, so they might not even realize they’re working on reading skills. Among the daily activities, volunteers read to the children and offer different themes each week.
Fint-Clark said the students also create amazing art projects. Ideas are often formulated from unconventional found objects. she said it’s materials that no one would ever imagine would be used to create anything. The kids’ imagination can run wild and merit big art projects, such as customized hats or sea turtles made out of cereal boxes.
“They are so cute, it’s amazing the stuff that they create” she said.
She said she thinks it’s exciting that the kids create a bond with their Americorps volunteer. By the end of the summer, the kids form a relationship with their mentor and look forward to seeing that person every day.
The grant-funded program has come a long way. When Fint-Clark first started, she said getting people to sign up was a lot harder than it is now. She said there’s a huge wait list and a lot of interest in the program. Each site can have 32 participants, and they have no trouble filling those spots.
In this day and age, it’s easy for everyone to rely on technology, and Fint-Clark sees Energy Express as a nice opportunity for the children to unplug and continue learning.
Another important part of the program is that children get breakfast and lunch. Fint-Clark said it’s vital to make sure the children are fed — for some that may be the only meals they have in a day.
“We want to make sure our children are fed, that’re having fun, that they’re disconnecting from that technology and that they’re learning,” she said, “at least continuing what they know in the area of reading and literacy.”
The program runs until July 27 and Fint-Clark said volunteers are always needed for an array of projects.