United Way of Summit County will hire 14 new AmeriCorps VISTA coordinators and one VISTA leader to develop and expand the iCARE Mentoring program within Akron Public Schools.
Started in 1965, the VISTA (Volunteers In Service To America) program engages more than 7,000 Americans in more than 1,000 service projects annually. VISTA members work to fight poverty throughout the United States by partnering with schools, public agencies, faith-based groups and nonprofit organizations such as United Way.
Created in 2015, iCARE (Creating Authentic Relational Energy) Mentoring is dedicated to providing at-risk Akron Public School students with nurturing and supportive role models. Mentors help children and young adults excel academically, build confidence and acquire the skills needed to face difficult life challenges. Now in its second full year, iCARE serves nearly 300 students in grades K-12 and hopes to expand its programming by facilitating more student-mentor matches.
The 15 VISTA members hired by United Way will make a year-long, full-time commitment to support the iCARE Mentoring program. They will develop and implement a mentor recruitment plan within the Akron community and serve as iCARE liaisons, working to ensure positive and productive mentor-student matches and relationships.
“The remarkable thing about this VISTA program is how much they will bring to the community,” says Jim Mullen, United Way president and chief executive officer. “The $132,000 United Way will invest into this program will be repaid many times over in terms of the impact these individuals will have, both on our schools and on the lives of the children they will help every day.”
"Mentoring is fast becoming a vital component to student success,” said David James, superintendent of Akron Public Schools. “United Way's commitment to this effort will afford our partnership with iCARE Mentoring the opportunity to expand services to our learners in their quest to become college and career ready.”
The 15 VISTA will be employees of United Way and will serve a collective 31,000 hours, providing a value of approximately $750,000 at no cost to the Akron Public Schools.
With 27 percent of third-graders not reading at grade level and 26 percent of high schoolers not graduating in four years, many Akron Public School students could use the help of a caring mentor. Fortunately, with the support of passionate individuals and dedicated community partners, United Way is working tirelessly to ensure that every child in Summit County has the help he or she needs to succeed.
To find out more about the program, or to apply to be an AmeriCorps VISTA with United Way of Summit County, visit uwsummit.org/vista.