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The University of Wyoming and Wyoming community colleges are among more than 325 organizations across the country that will share $234 million in federal AmeriCorps grants funded by the Corporation for National and Community Service.
The funding will boost their efforts to address education, health, poverty and other pressing social issues. UW received $217,000 through AmeriCorps' Connecting Campus and Community Program. Additionally, Serve Wyoming, the state's commission on community service, received more than $600,000 in new formula funding that will be sub-granted this summer to support additional AmeriCorps members.
"While the majority of members are UW students, we also have members at Casper College, Laramie County Community College and Northwest College," says Katie Kleinhesselink, coordinator of the UW Center for Volunteer Service. "This new grant will increase our capacity to reach the rest of the community colleges as well as new nonprofits around the state."
She anticipates more than 170 individuals statewide will serve in the Wyoming program during the next year, up from 130 this year.
AmeriCorps members at UW serve with organizations as diverse as Interfaith Good Samaritan, Big Brothers Big Sisters, the Downtown Clinic, Wyoming Women's Business Center and Laramie Main Street. Across the state, members serve with Teton Science Schools, the National Outdoor Leadership School, Wyoming Special Olympics, Food Bank of the Rockies, the Wyoming Housing Network, the Wyoming Family Homeownership Program and other organizations.
The Connecting Campus and Community AmeriCorps program is comprised of two branches: Campus Corps and Scholarships for Service. Campus Corps members receive a modest living allowance while they manage volunteers and create resources for nonprofits around the state plus an education scholarship upon completing their term of service. Applications for these positions come out in early spring and again in the fall.
Scholarships for Service members focus on meeting community needs while completing an academic internship. While they do not receive a living stipend, these members do receive scholarships upon completing their service.
The AmeriCorps grants, the first made under the bipartisan Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act signed last year, carry out the vision of the landmark law to expand AmeriCorps and target it to meeting critical national issues of strengthening education, expanding health services, assisting veterans and military families, building a green future,and fostering economic opportunity.
The grants will support more than 57,000 new AmeriCorps members.
The new positions come as AmeriCorps continues to experience a surge in applications from individuals who want to serve in the program. In 2009, AmeriCorps received 246,842 online applications, a 170 percent increase over the 91,399 applications received in 2008.
AmeriCorps members serve with more than 3,300 nonprofit, faith-based, and community groups each year, helping them expand their reach and better meet their mission. Since 1994, more than 637,000 AmeriCorps members have given 774 million service hours in their communities.