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KU Selected to Participate in Next Steps Americorps Program

August 12, 2014

KUTZTOWN, Pa. - As part of its commitment to expand access to education and strengthen its ties to communities within the region, Kutztown University will participate in the Next Steps AmeriCorps program beginning this fall. The program is an initiative of the Philadelphia Higher Education Network for Neighborhood Development (PHENND) and funded by PennSERVE, the Governor's Office for Citizen Service.

KU was one of nine Pennsylvania colleges and universities, including Millersville, Drexel and Temple, selected to engage in a program that offers college sophomores and juniors the opportunity to perform 300 hours of direct community service during the school year in exchange for an education award worth $1,195.

Selection is underway at Kutztown to pair students with critical community needs.

"We will enroll a number of KU students, who are graduates of Philly schools, in part-time AmeriCorps volunteer service in the Reading community during the 2014-2015 school year," said Jerry Schearer, associate dean for outreach and inclusion at Kutztown. "It's another way to support students with financial need who are performing volunteer service in our community."

In its first year of operation, Next Steps provides first-generation college students who graduated from Philadelphia high schools with extra support and guidance through community service, mentorship, supportive workshops and leadership development.

"Corps members can choose any kind of regular community service placement through the Community Outreach Center, while participating in one leadership development workshop a month and mentoring two incoming first-year students from Philadelphia as part of their service," explained Schearer.

The education award will be in addition to any federally-funded work study program monies.

AmeriCorps is a national service program that has been providing volunteers with education awards in exchange for a year or more of community service, either part time or full time, since 1994. In addition to earning money allocated for education costs, members learn teamwork and leadership skills in real-life work environments. The organization welcomes any U.S. citizen 17 years or older as a member.

Since 1987 PHENND has grown to a consortium of more than 30 colleges and universities in the greater Philadelphia area. Among its partners are the University of Pennsylvania, Bryn Mawr College and Villanova University. The organization's mission is to "facilitate campus-community partnership around the region, revitalize local communities and schools, and foster civic responsibility among the region's colleges and universities," according to phennd.org.

For more information contact Schearer at schearer@kutztown.edu or 610-683-4923.