Four Columbia programs get boost from AmeriCorps grants

Thursday, August 29, 2013 | 7:38 p.m. CDT; updated 9:27 p.m. CDT, Thursday, August 29, 2013

COLUMBIA — Fifteen organizations across the state will receive grants to implement AmeriCorps programs this year, four of which are in Columbia.

The Missouri Department of Economic Development announced a grant of $2.6 million last Thursday, which will be distributed locally and benefit more than 400 AmeriCorps members, according to a DED press release.

AmeriCorps programs aim to address disaster relief, education and other local needs. Members, while serving their communities, also gain "civic and leadership skills that will last a lifetime," Mike Downing, acting director of the Missouri DED, said in a news release.

Four organizations in Columbia are recipients of the grants: The Missouri College Advising Corps and the UM System Board of Curators, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Missouri, Primaris and Jumpstart. 

Columbia's local Jumpstart affiliate employs MU and Columbia College students who work as tutors at several preschools in the area. The program aims to enrich at-risk children's educational experiences through two-hour programs twice a week that focus on language and literacy, according to Chrissie Bennett, Jumpstart senior site manager.

"Many children from at-risk backgrounds are not exposed to rich language or books during the preschool years," Bennett said. Jumpstart provides "an extra boost to enhance what the preschool is already doing."

This will be the 11th year Jumpstart has received funding from AmeriCorps. Bennett says this funding, along with federal work-study funding for Jumpstart tutors, is vital to the organization.

Without AmeriCorps and funding from work-study programs, Jumpstart in Columbia would not exist, Bennett said, adding that the organization is "incredibly grateful" to be a recipient again this year.

Supervising editor is Stephanie Ebbs.

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