AmeriCorps is gearing up again for another calendar year at Yuba College. The program has been active on the Marysville campus since 1999 and is growing in the number of volunteers steadily every year.
AmeriCorps is a national, federally sponsored organization, which does a wide variety of community activities around the country. These activities include: tutoring and mentoring disadvantaged youth, fighting illiteracy, improving health services, building affordable housing, teaching computer skills, cleaning parks and streams, managing or operating after-school programs and helping communities respond to disasters.
AmeriCorps got its start nationally in 1993 when President Clinton signed the National and Community Service and Trust Act. It was formed by combining two longstanding organizations: the VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America) program, created by President Lyndon Johnson in 1964, and the National Civilian Community Corps (NCCC).
The AmeriCorps group on the Marysville campus focuses on the mentoring of foster youth. By cooperating with ILP (Independent Living Program), the mentors help prepare youth for life as an adult once they leave their foster parents. They also work with the youth at activities around the Yuba-Sutter area, getting involved in projects that enrich the lives of the youth as well as the rest of the community.
In addition to service activities around the community, AmeriCorps also takes its youth to recreational activities. Places include Great America, Ice Skating and a Computer camp where each youth was given a laptop.
Bettye-Ann Stephens, head of the Yuba College AmeriCorps program, says she is excited about upcoming activities. “We have a lot of great stuff planned for the coming months and we have a good set of mentors this year,” said Stephens. “I’m excited about what’s happening this year.”
The AmeriCorps group on campus consists of 40 student mentors and 176 youth. The goal for the program is to have a one-on-one mentor-to-youth ratio, so new mentors are always welcome. For those interested in applying, the guidelines for admittance into the program require only that the person be over the age of eighteen and have no criminal record. The applicant does not have to be a current student at the college to enroll.
The enrollment for mentors is over a period of 450 hours, after which they receive an educational stipend of $1,250. The student also receives one to four units of college credit. Once enrolled, the mentor is assigned a youth and meets with him or her weekly with the rest of the group on campus. Then once the mentor is acquainted with the youth, he or she meets with the youth at their house on a one-on-one basis in addition the weekly meetings.
Richard Heeley, who has been a mentor for two years, said, “It’s great to be a part of something like this. I feel like I am making an impact that will have positive long-term effects.”
No mentors interviewed said that they ever regretted signing up. In fact, a lot of them are in their second term ready for another year. A new mentor this year, Sirena Day, said, “I like hanging out with the kids. They are nice. (AmeriCorps) is Fun.”
The youth the AmeriCorps group works with range from 14 to 21 years in age. They come from all ethnic and social backgrounds and for the most part are in the program because they want to be. Most are foster kids although some are not.
For more information or an Application call Bettye-Ann Stephens at 530-749-3850. Or stop by her office in the 1300 building, room 1324 upstairs. It is inbetween the main campus and the police department.