Thank You, AmeriCorps VISTA Summer Associates

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By: 
Mary Strasser

It’s back-to-school time. In the upcoming weeks, children across the country will be asked this quintessential question: “What did you do this summer?”  The answer for nearly 3,000 Baltimore elementary students may surprise you.

With the help of 93 AmeriCorps VISTA Summer Associates, they practiced reading and writing. More importantly, they had lots of fun in the process!

Baltimore Mayor Rawlings-Blake (center) congratulates students and VISTA Summer Associates who completed this year’s ”Read to Succeed” program during an end-of-summer celebration event.City of Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake recruited the VISTA Summer Associates to tackle a challenge facing many urban school systems—summer learning loss. Summer Associates spent their volunteer service operating the “Read to Succeed” program for kindergarten to third-grade students most in need of reading support.

The students explored the magical world of undersea animals, ventured on weekly cultural field trips, and participated in daily outdoor activities. And all of this was done with a theme of reading. More than 100,000 nutritious meals, including 60,000 suppers through the USDA Summer Food Service Program, were also distributed as part of the program.

Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake held a special recognition event for VISTA Summer Associates at City Hall and brought surprise guest Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley.On August 12, during an event to recognize their dedication to service, Mayor Rawlings-Blake had this to say:

“VISTA Summer Associates are playing an important role in helping close the achievement gap in our city.  Without the VISTAs, we wouldn’t have been able to reach so many kids with the help they need to do well in school and life.”

I couldn’t be more proud of the VISTA Summer Associates who served in Baltimore this summer and the 1,398 additional young people who were assisting other local governments and organizations around the country.

They are proof, that for VISTAs, summers aren’t just for breaks, but breakthroughs in the fight against poverty.

Mary Strasser is the Director of AmeriCorps VISTA.

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