New Pawtucket AmeriCorps Project Will Boost Graduation Rates; Connect Students to College, Career, and Service Opportunities

Apr 16, 2015


Operation AmeriCorps will support 64 AmeriCorps members over two years to connect Pawtucket seniors to post-graduate opportunities

PAWTUCKET, R.I. – The Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS), the federal agency that administers AmeriCorps, today announced that Pawtucket will be one of 10 communities nationwide to become part of the agency’s new Operation AmeriCorps initiative.

The Connecting Futures Operation AmeriCorps project, led by the Pawtucket School Department, will support 64 AmeriCorps members over the next two years to improve graduation rates and connect more than 900 graduating Pawtucket seniors with one of five postgraduate opportunities: education at a two- or four-year college; employment; military service; national service, such as AmeriCorps; or a paid internship, registered apprenticeship, or job training program.

“I salute the City of Pawtucket, the Pawtucket School Department, Serve Rhode Island, and the business and community partners for this visionary project that will have a transforming impact on the community and its young people,” said Wendy Spencer, CEO of the Corporation for National and Community Service.  “Through Operation AmeriCorps, this city will come together to ensure more Pawtucket students graduate from high school and get connected to opportunities that help them reach their full potential in life.”

“I commend Mayor Grebien, Superintendent DiCenso and the Pawtucket School Department, and Serve Rhode Island for working together to win this federal grant to help improve college and career opportunities for graduating seniors. Serve Rhode Island and AmeriCorps members really make a positive difference in our communities. This is a smart federal investment that will help open new opportunities for Pawtucket high school students. It gives more young people the opportunity to gain valuable skills while enriching local schools and our community,” said Senator Jack Reed. 

“The Pawtucket School Department should take great pride in earning one of 10 inaugural Operation AmeriCorps grants for 2015,” said Congressman David N. Cicilline. “This funding will help ensure that young people in Pawtucket are able to continue their education beyond high school and move on to a successful career. The Pawtucket School Department on their successful grant application and thanks to Operation AmeriCorps for investing in Rhode Island’s next generation.”

“I am thrilled to see these stakeholders collaborate in order to increase graduation rates for high school students in Pawtucket,” said Governor Gina M. Raimondo. “With this grant, AmeriCorps will help address workforce development and the skills gap in Rhode Island. This is a great step towards building the skills needed for a 21st century economy.”

“I want to thank Wendy Spencer, the Corporation for National and Community Service and AmeriCorps for taking such a keen interest in the City of Pawtucket and our schoolchildren. I also want to thank the Pawtucket School Committee, School Superintendent Patti Dicenso and our community partners for their participation in this event today. This is a community that cares about one another and these grant dollars, which will help foster volunteerism and community service from our young people, will aid in keeping the positive momentum that Pawtucket has going for it right now,” said Mayor Donald R. Grebien. “By allowing our kids access to mentors who can help them reach their goals of going to college, we are making a significant investment in the workforce of tomorrow as well as the future of Pawtucket,” Grebien continued.

"The Pawtucket School Department is thrilled to receive this award that will provide mentoring to our students as they plan their futures beyond high school. AmeriCorps members will also model the importance of service to our community and country which is another invaluable lesson for Pawtucket children,” said Patti DiCenso, Superintendent of the Pawtucket School Department.  “I am grateful to our City and Mayor Grebien for building a bridge between our municipality and school department as we work together to serve our great city. Thank you Governor Raimondo, AmeriCorps and Serve Rhode Island for the incredible support and commitment to the children of Pawtucket."

The Pawtucket School Department is the third organization in the nation to receive Operation AmeriCorps funding, an initiative launched by CNCS last fall for local and tribal governments to use national service as a transformative catalyst to address a high priority community challenge.  Additional Operation AmeriCorps grantees will be announced later this month.

Starting next fall, 16 AmeriCorps members will be based at William E. Tolman Senior High and Charles E. Shea Senior High Schools to work with juniors and seniors on career awareness, academic support and remediation, financial literacy, wrap-around services, higher education counseling, and ongoing mentoring support.  In addition, six AmeriCorps VISTA members will coordinate with school officials, businesses, nonprofits, and other groups to develop college, work, service, and internship options for students.  A team of ten AmeriCorps NCCC members will also serve in the summer to engage high school students in service projects. 

The federal agency’s investment includes $826,000 in AmeriCorps program dollars over two years, contingent on appropriations and performance. In addition, AmeriCorps members completing their service are eligible to earn a total of $252,000 in Segal AmeriCorps Education Awards to pay for higher education or pay back student loans.  This federal investment of $1.078 million is projected to generate an additional $450,000 in local cash and in-kind matching contributions, making the total two-year investment total worth more than $1.5 million

The Connecting Futures project will involve many state and local partners including the Governors Workforce Board, the Workforce Partnership of Greater Rhode Island, RI Department of Labor and Training, Youth Center of Pawtucket, Boys & Girls Club of Pawtucket, Blackstone Valley Community Action Program, the Pawtucket Foundation, Rhode Island institutions of higher education, the Rhode Island Federation of Teachers and Health Professionals, The Northern Rhode Island Chamber of Commerce and local businesses.

CNCS CEO Spencer and Mayor Grebien made the announcement today at Tolman High School.  Rhode Island received additional good news this week, when the Corporation for National and Community Service released new data that ranked the state as #6 for residents who enroll in AmeriCorps. Providence, R. I. made an appearance in the rankings as well, coming in at #2 for midsize cities.

The Operation AmeriCorps funding builds on CNCS’ existing investment of $7.8 million in communities across Rhode Island. These federal dollars leverage an additional $3.4 million in other resources. This funding supports more than 4,000 AmeriCorps members and Senior Corps volunteers to serve at 525 locations in the state. These citizens tutor and mentor children, support veterans and military families, provide health services, restore the environment, and more.

The Pawtucket School Department will begin recruiting individuals for these new AmeriCorps positions that will start for the 2015-2016 school year. These full-time AmeriCorps positions provide a living allowance, training, health coverage, a $5,730 college scholarship, and the opportunity to make a difference for Pawtucket and its young people.

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