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AmeriCorps Alums Helps Pilot National Program

Tuesday, July 29, 2008   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Greg Heinrich
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Pilot for national program helps students give back
BY GINA DAMRON, Detroit Free Press
A group of metro Detroit teens and preteens took a break from video games and reality TV shows last week to weed a garden and plant flowers in Pontiac.

The work was part of a community service project organized by the Michigan State University Extension Oakland County 4-H Youth Development and AmeriCorps Alums. The group is the alumni association for the AmeriCorps volunteer program.

"Is this a weed?" yelled 13-year-old Rahul Kodali of Novi, tugging on foliage rooted somewhere between the squash plants and the tomato plants sprouting at the edge of the garden at the Baldwin Center in Pontiac on Thursday.

"If it's not leafy and nice looking, it's a weed," said Jason Scott, a program coordinator for Oakland County 4-H. .

The three-week program, called the Summer of Service Initiative, is a pilot for a national program that would partner 4-H organizations and AmeriCorps Alums nationwide, said Christy Hicks, associate director of AmeriCorps Alums.

She said the national program could be begin next year. The program is available for Oakland County students entering the 9th grade.

This weekend, the teens involved in the project will volunteer with the Equine STAR Foundation in White Lake Township, a nonprofit that rehabilitates mistreated or retired horses. On Aug. 5-6, they'll paint murals and help refurbish the Royal Oak Township recreation center, Hicks said.

The program gives the teens -- most still too young to get summer jobs -- something productive to do, while instilling the values of community service, said Thomas Schneider, a youth development educator with MSU Extension in Oakland County.

"It encourages kids to take action," he said.

And the students can apply the community service hours earned toward high school graduation.

At the Baldwin Center on Thursday, most of the boys stayed outside, weeding under the hot sun, while the girls stayed cool inside painting a sign for the garden's gate.

"I want to have, like, a big tree and then I want to, like, have a, well, bunch of flowers and butterflies on it," said Paige Anthony, 10, of Pontiac, staring at the three-paneled sign. She was excited about the opportunity to volunteer, especially in her own community.

"I get to, like, help people."


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