January 25, 2013

AmeriCorps students assisting The Science Center

by Christi Mathis

CARBONDALE, Ill. – The state’s oldest AmeriCorps group is expanding its service sphere.

Southern Illinois University Carbondale’s Land of Lincoln AmeriCorps members will now also lend a hand at The Science Center located at the University Mall.  The University students are helping with internal and external programming and community outreach, said Chris Walls, executive director of The Science Center.

He said the work, in conjunction with the center’s program coordinator, will “present the positive message of science education and the importance of it.”

The Center provides hundreds of programs and hosts numerous field trips annually, and AmeriCorps’ initial help will focus on ecology and river basins, Walls said. The center is grateful for ongoing assistance from some of the University’s students, and is very appreciative of the additional help Land of Lincoln AmeriCorps is now providing, he said.

SIU’s AmeriCorps program originated during the fall 2005 semester. Activities include tutoring and mentoring students in grades PreK-8 in the Carbondale elementary schools, De Soto and Unity Point school districts, and the Boys and Girls Club and ‘I Can Read’ programs in Carbondale, said Mythili Rundblad, co-director of the Center for Service Learning and Volunteerism.

There are nine SIU students who are AmeriCorps members for the spring 2013 semester, Rundblad said.  Each member makes a one-year commitment, pledging 900 hours of service. 

The commitment includes 60 to 70 hours of pre-service and in-service training, but the majority of the time is in local schools and programs helping children.  The SIU AmeriCorps team also organizes service projects to mark national service days including the 911 Day of Remembrance and Service, the National Volunteerism Week commemoration in April, and the MLK Day veterans program at the Boys and Girls Club. 

The emphasis of the grant-based, community service program is service, and “getting things done,” Rundblad said. Participants receive a small stipend, along with a funding award toward educational expenses upon completion of their service hours.