PIKEVILLE – “Unleash your potential.”

That was the message given to UNITE Service Corps (AmeriCorps) members by Reda Shemelya during the end-of-year celebration held May 29 at the Pikeville First Baptist Church Auxiliary Hall.

Shemelya was guest speaker for the luncheon, marking the conclusion of the UNITE Service Corps’ 16th year of service to schools across southern and eastern Kentucky.

Nearly 50 people gathered for the celebration, including Serve Kentucky Program Managers Caitlin Bottoms and Andrew Stith.

Serve Kentucky is a State Service Commission created to serve as a conduit for federal funds that support AmeriCorps programs in the Commonwealth, encourage and recognize volunteerism, and assist in service program development.

The celebration was also an opportunity to recognize the long-time service of Debbie Trusty, UNITE’s Education and Treatment Director, who will be retiring at the end of June.

During the 2023-24 school year, the UNITE Service Corps engaged 62 members serving 55 elementary schools in 22 school systems across 21 counties within its service region. In addition, seven Kentucky AmeriCorps members are serving as interns this summer to assist with the Shoot Hoops Not Drugs and Camp UNITE prevention initiatives.

Kentucky AmeriCorps members serving with UNITE provide math tutoring and drug prevention education to elementary school students using the “Too Good for Drugs” curricula.

The “Too Good for Drugs” program has been found to be effective in decreasing a youth’s intention to use alcohol or other drugs. The lessons introduce and develop social and emotional skills for making healthy choices, building positive friendships, developing self-efficacy, communicating effectively, and resisting peer pressure and influence.

In addition, AmeriCorps members serving with UNITE volunteer as sponsors for anti-drug UNITE Clubs in their schools and recruit volunteers for school-based prevention programs.