Operation UNITE has received funding to add 10 new AmeriCorps members to serve schools in Eastern Kentucky during the 2010-11 school year.

News of the $325,000 grant from the Corporation for National and Community Service was announced by Fifth District Congressman Harold “Hal” Rogers.

“Citizen service is an essential part of the solution to many of the social changes facing our communities, especially in tough economic times,” Rogers said. “These AmeriCorps members will meet local needs and strengthen our neighborhoods. I congratulate Operation UNITE for receiving this grant and thank all those who have answered the call to service by joining AmeriCorps.”

AmeriCorps members teach the “Too Good for Drugs” curriculum, tutor students in mathematics, and help establish and coordinate anti-drug UNITE Clubs.

“The work we’re doing is very proactive. It is touching children’s lives,” said Gary Perkins, who has directed the initiative since inception. “We are working with the most precious commodity that Kentucky – especially Eastern Kentucky – has to offer, and that is our children.”

During the 2008-09 school year UNITE employed 10 AmeriCorps members at schools in six counties through a three-year grant awarded by Corporation for National and Community Service. An additional five members were added in the 2009-10 school year with funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

UNITE’s Service Corps initiative was implemented at 16 elementary schools in eight Eastern Kentucky counties this past year. Those schools were located in Floyd, Harlan, Johnson, Knott, Leslie, Magoffin, Pike and Wolfe counties.

“This is a chance for the program to double the number of students that will have access to service and drug education projects during their tenure in school,” Perkins said. “With the extreme needs in Southeastern Kentucky, it is pleasing to expand this service to meet the demands of our population.”

Each participating school contributes $5,500 toward the salary of the AmeriCorps member.

“Gary’s leadership skills have enabled this program to be one of UNITE’s most successful,” said Karen Engle, director of UNITE. “The partnership with AmeriCorps has added another dimension to UNITE’s education initiative. The anti-drug prevention component provides an opportunity to reach out to youth at the earliest levels.”

Although statistics for the past year are not complete, the UNITE Service Corps was on pace to easily exceed its goals. As of mid-year, since inception:

• 1,621 students had been taught Too Good For Drugs. Pre- and post-testing of the students is done to determine the growth in student knowledge about drugs. Preliminary figures indicate a 34 percent growth in content knowledge.

• 1,393 students had been tutored in math.

• 24 UNITE Clubs were formed with 733 members.

• 1,908 students had been mentored.

• 302 volunteers had provided service hours to the schools.

“This is a way for UNITE to help communities raise graduation rates, provide positive mentoring opportunities, and to tackle other national challenges such as substance abuse,” Engle stated.

In addition to the grant dollars, the Corporation for National and Community Service is setting aside funding to pay for Segal AmeriCorps Education Awards for individuals who will serve in positions funded by these grants. After completing a full term of service, AmeriCorps members receive an education award of $5,350 that they can use to pay for college or to pay off student loans.

The grants, the first made under the bipartisan Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act passed last year, focus AmeriCorps resources on five key areas: strengthening education, improving health, meeting environmental and energy efficiency needs, assisting veterans and military families, and fostering economic opportunity.