Ten Iowa schools will have the benefit of having an Iowa Reading Corps AmeriCorps member this year to help students with reading during the inaugural year that the program is being offered in Iowa. Amazingly, two of those schools are right here in eastern Story County.

Barb Mittman, formerly with Nevada’s YSS office, has taken the AmeriCorps member position at Central Elementary School in Nevada this fall; and Colo-Nesco Elementary is presently searching for the AmeriCorps member who will serve in that school starting this October.

The Iowa Reading Corps AmeriCorps Program has partnered with United Way of Story County to provide members to these two local school districts. Iowa Reading Corps is a statewide initiative, led by United Ways of Iowa, to help ensure that all Iowa students are on track to read at grade level by the end of third grade. The program places AmeriCorps members, trained as elementary literacy tutors, at schools across Iowa to provide tutoring for students who are just below proficiency in reading.

Iowa Reading Corps AmeriCorps members work one-on-one with students in kindergarten through third grade who need help learning to read.

According to Melissa Simmermaker, Iowa Reading Corps AmeriCorps program manager, the Reading Corps AmeriCorps program provides members with extensive training in research-based literacy interventions. "Members will not be reading books with students. Rather, they will be partnering with their internal coach (an experienced teacher at their school) to select prescribed literacy interventions to ensure that more students are on track to read at grade level by the end of the third grade."

Simmermaker said the program is driven by student data. "Members and coaches will work together to track student progress and make adjustments whenever needed," she said.

United Way of Story County and the Iowa Reading Corps AmeriCorp Program are looking to fill the position at Colo-Nesco very quickly. "We would like applicants to submit their application as soon as possible so they can begin by the end of the month," Simmermaker said.

Qualifications for the member position aren’t specific. "There is no age limit to serve with our AmeriCorps program," Simmermaker said. "We have members who have recently graduated from college and who are retirees. While this position lends itself well to someone who has a background in education, teaching or tutoring, formal training or education in these areas is not required."

Once hired, Simmermaker said each member who will work with the program attends an intensive three-day training in Minnesota before they begin tutoring students.

"I would say the best candidates for AmeriCorps are individuals who are passionate about service and who want to make a difference in the lives of these students. A passion for promoting literacy is also a desired trait," Simmermaker said.

She said a committee made up of the Colo-Nesco Elementary principal, a United Way of Story County representative and a United Ways of Iowa representative will determine the person who will fill the position at Colo-Nesco. "We would ideally like to begin interviewing applicants by next week or the week after," she said.

The Iowa Reading Corp AmeriCorps member who serves at Colo-Nesco Elementary will serve 20 hours a week at the school, most likely tutoring students about four hours a day, five days a week.

This service position ends by July 31, 2014, and during the summer months, AmeriCorps members have the opportunity to partner with United Way of Story County to coordinate literacy-based programming. In return for their service, AmeriCorps members receive a living stipend, an education award of up to $2,775 to use for previous or future education expenses and other benefits.

To learn more about the Iowa Reading Corps AmeriCorps Program and to access the member application, please visit http://www.uwiowa.org/AmeriCorps.

Mittman said she found out about the AmeriCorps member position at Central Elementary through a front-page story in the Nevada Journal last year. It is the search committee’s hope that they can find another local person for the Colo-Nesco position. Perhaps someone reading this story might be that person.