First Harkin Awards Honor AmeriCorps Members, Programs

(Left to right) AmeriCorps Director Bill Basl; Team Lead for AmeriCorps and TRIO Programs Jenny Ceesay; PartnerCorps Project Director Rob Bowers; Senator Tom Harkin; Berea College President Lyle Roelofs; and Executive Director of Partners for Education Dreama Gentry.
(Left to right) AmeriCorps Director Bill Basl; Team Lead for AmeriCorps and TRIO Programs Jenny Ceesay; PartnerCorps Project Director Rob Bowers; Senator Tom Harkin; Berea College President Lyle Roelofs; and Executive Director of Partners for Education Dreama Gentry.

Berea College’s PartnerCorps was one of five AmeriCorps programs from around the nation to receive the first annual Tom Harkin Excellence in AmeriCorps Awards. Presented by the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS), the awards were created in honor of Senator Tom Harkin, a lifelong champion for national service, to recognize the outstanding and innovative AmeriCorps programs tackling our nation’s most pressing challenges.

Berea’s PartnerCorps was recognized for Best New AmeriCorps Program Design. PartnerCorps is a school-wide mentoring program that began in 2013, placing dozens of AmeriCorps members in high schools in Knox and Leslie Counties of Kentucky. Since the program’s inception, PartnerCorps members have provided more than 30,000 hours of service in mentoring students, and providing behavior and attendance assistance. The high schools in both counties have seen significant improvements in academic achievement and school attendance since PartnerCorps was introduced to the community. In 2014, Leslie County High School recorded the highest ACT average among juniors in the school’s history and jumped from 224th to 16th place out of 230 Kentucky schools.

Dreama Gentry, executive director of Partners for Education says, “The success of the Berea College PartnerCorps is attributed our AmeriCorps members. We have sixty volunteers who serve as mentors, family connectors and college guides to the high school students in Knox, Leslie and Perry counties. The success of the program is a testament to our member’s commitment to the students, their relentless efforts to advocate for each student and their willingness to go the extra mile to ensure that all students have opportunity.”

Wendy Spencer, CEO of the Corporation for National and Community Service, says that the award was named after Senator Tom Harkin. “Nearly 1 million Americans have served in AmeriCorps, thanks to the leadership and effectiveness of leaders like Sen. Tom Harkin who made creating these service opportunities a priority. Sen. Harkin knows that part of being a good citizen is serving, giving back. His stature as a public servant and advocate for national service is known in Iowa and across the country.”

In presenting the award, Senator Harkin said, “It is a tremendous honor to present these awards to such deserving individuals and organizations that exemplify what it means to be a part of something bigger than themselves. AmeriCorps helps to define America as a compassionate nation that does not turn its back on the least, the lost, and the left behind.”

“Key to our program is our strong partnerships with our partner schools – Knox Central High School, Leslie County High School and Perry Central High School,” Gentry states. “We could not do this program without the support from the principals and teachers in these schools.”

For more information and a list of other recipients, see: http://nationalservice.tumblr.com/post/129236158487/first-annual-harkin-awards-honor

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