Community Action, Inc. of Rock and Walworth Counties
Commission AmeriCorps State FY 2011
EXECUTIVE SUMMARY Community Action, Inc. of Rock and Walworth Counties (CAI) is a not-for-profit antipoverty organization that has been effectively operating a broad range of programs for more than 40 years. Community Action proposes to deliver the AmeriCorps program to disadvantaged youth in the City of Beloit. Beloit is a diverse urban community within Rock County, Wisconsin. Beloit is located along the Wisconsin/Illinois state line, at the crossroads of two interstate highways and other major routes connecting Beloit to Chicago, Milwaukee, and Rockford which makes it a prime locale for drug trafficking, gang expansion, and related urban problems that effect youth, families, and the community as a whole. Beloit is often described as a "small city with big city problems." Beloit's Merrill neighborhood where the AmeriCorps program is targeted faces the community's greatest challenges. Census 2000 data reveals that over 80% of Merrill's housing structures were built prior to 1959 and 80% were valued at less than $50,000. Despite these clear indicators of neighborhood disinvestment, the census revealed over 49% of Merrill's renters pay more than 30% of their household income. CAI has established a comprehensive outreach network that is highly effective in recruiting youth as evidenced by the current waiting list of more than 50 eligible youth. The program targets dropout youth ages 18-21 years who have multiple barriers to employment including corrections clients, homeless youth and youth with disabilities. CAI has operated the Beloit Fresh Start program since 2006. Participants, high school dropouts, spend their time involved in an education schedule taught by Community Action academic staff, service learning directed toward occupational job skill development in construction through the rehabilitation efforts in the Merrill neighborhood of Beloit and the balance of their time engaged in a variety of life skill competencies and additional community projects. Youth gain multiple credentials during their program participation in the areas of education (high school diploma), work related (OSHA, First Aid, CRR/CPR), and work readiness (Success Skills curriculum approved by Southwest Wisconsin Workforce Development Board). Participants will complete Green Generalist Training (Green 101) offered by Blackhawk Technical College. We are beginning to work with the Madison-based Apprentice program to match youth with apprenticeships in skilled trades. The Home Builders Institute (HBI) Pre-Apprenticeship Certificate Training (PACT) is the core skills curricula. PACT is an outstanding tool to prepare workers for residential construction and ensures a focus on obtaining credentials. CAI has positioned the program well to be an invaluable asset to disadvantaged Beloit youth and demonstrate the value of service learning throughout the community at large. CAI's 2007 purchase of 16 homes in the Merrill neighborhood demonstrates a strong, long-term commitment to the revitalization of this neighborhood. The Beloit Fresh Start/AmeriCorps program utilizes disadvantaged youth as a key strategy for rehabilitation of these homes enables CAI to position the youth themselves to be leaders in reshaping and rehabilitating the neighborhood in which they live. The AmeriCorps funding will provide essential resources that enable us to solidify our commitment to Beloit youth.