Energy Express is ready to begin its 13th year in Mingo County, it was announced. WVU Extension Assistant Professor Mark Whitt said Mingo County students will have the opportunity to participate in Energy Express at one of the five sites. "Students who want to have education fun with college mentors and eat two nutritious meals each day should contact the school in their area," said Whitt. "Research has shown that Mingo County students participating in this program have had an increase of 6.2 to 7 months in broad reading scores, so this is definitely an excellent program to keep our young children from regressing in the summer," he added. Each summer nearly 3,000 West Virginia children from low-income families will benefit from a $4.2 million grant over three years for Energy Express, an Americorp program under the leadership of West Virginia University Extension Service. This summer, the program is offered at 78 sites in 39 counties across the state. Energy Express is designed to provide learning opportunities and nutrition during the summer months, when children are most at risk for falling into the summer slide," according to Whitt, who is a Mingo County faculty member of WVU Extension. Under the direction of WVU Extenson, state teachers supervise nearly 500 AmeriCorps college students and other community members who serve as mentors and community coordinators.
The mentors spend their day reading, writing, interacting and creating artwork with kids in first through sixth grades. Community Coordinators recruit, train and supervise the program's volunteers. The Americorps members were sworn in at a ceremony at West Virginia Wesleyan College on June 13. The event was also a kick-off for the summer's Energy Express ;program. The WVU 4-H Youth Development program ensures that children in low-income communities receive the nutrition and reading help they need to stay on track for six weeks during the summer. In addition to WVU Extension Service, AmeriCorps and Volunteer West Virginia, other supporters include the West Virginia Department of Education and the West Virginia Department of Education and the Arts. The benefits of Energy Express extend beyond the six weeks of summer. Whitt stated. "Children who participate in this program are able to maintain or improve their educational levels from the previous year. The students can return to classes without any major setbacks." Whitt noted that each week every child receives a book to take home and keep. Based on the success of Energy Express participants and the unique aspects of the program, the National Center for Summer Learnng at Johns Hopkins University named the Energy Express program one of the nation's best summer learning programs in 2009. For more information about Energy Express, visit ww.energyhexpress.wvu.edu, or contact Yvonne Quinn @ (304) 235-170; Mark Whitt, (304) 235-0370; Burch Elementary @ (304) 475-2141; Gilbert Elementary @ (304) 664-6042; Dingess Elementary @ (304) 752-7036; Kermit K-8 @ (304) 393-4130, or Matewan Elementary @ (304) 426-4719.