Members from the Jumpstart Arkansas program at the University of Arkansas – Fort Smith, spent the week of March 8-14 participating in various service projects as part of AmeriCorps Week, a celebration of the national initiative’s programs, services and members across the country.
Seven UAFS members traveled to Little Rock’s Heifer Village to participate in the state’s first Arkansas National Service Convention. The members learned about other streams of service available in Arkansas. They were able to network with members from different regions as well.
“The Arkansas National Service Convention was a day for members to learn about past, present and future service opportunities, as well as bond as a team,” said Kimberly Taylor, coordinator of UAFS Jumpstart. “It helped motivate members to finish this program year strong.”
UAFS Jumpstart members also completed a “Read for Mercy” service project for Hamilton House Child and Family Safety Center. With a mini-grant from Engage AR, UAFS Jumpstart was able to donate and assemble a bookshelf with 28 books on social-emotional intelligence, mindfulness, and body awareness. Members also recorded read-aloud videos of the books for children to follow along with on YouTube, assembled family information packets, and sanitized high traffic areas of the facility.
“We chose to serve the Hamilton House because of the impact they make of the lives of local children during times of distress,” Taylor said. “It is our hope that the books we left will help children better understand the emotions they are experiencing during times of uncertainty.”
Members on campus hosted tabling events at the Smith-Pendergraft Campus Center to recruit new members for the Summer 2020 program, an option for those whose schedules did not allow service during the school year. Participants in Summer 2020 will serve daily in area preschools as a classroom assistant, earning $100 per week living allowance. Those who complete 300 hours of service over the summer will receive a $1,200 scholarship toward future college expenses. Candidates can apply at jstart.org/apply.
In light of the recent COVID-19 pandemic, Jumpstart has had to take unprecedented measures to ensure members complete the required service hours while also seeing to their health and wellbeing. In response, Taylor has requested a budget adjustment to be able to provide members with much needed financial resources.
“This pandemic has affected all of our members, but some have been more negatively impacted than others,” Taylor said. “Our request to provide financial assistance would not require additional funds, but would simply allow us to use the funds we have been awarded to serve our members better. They are committed to service, and we are committed to them.”
Members are continuing with previously assigned online training and will soon begin participating in Zoom meetings for planning, making video recordings of reading stories to share on YouTube, and having daily reflections through teleconference. Taylor says all members are willing to continue in service through digital channels until society returns to normalcy.
“It is our hope that public schools will reopen on April 20, and members can return to service in classrooms for the remainder of the year,” Taylor said.
Members who do not live in Fort Smith and have returned home for the remainder of the semester will be allowed to complete their classroom service hours at a childcare facility near them.
AmeriCorps has been leading community-level service initiatives across the country since 1994. For more information on the UAFS Jumpstart program, contact Taylor at firstname.lastname@example.org.