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AmeriCorps Working for Turnarounds at Reagan, Travis High Schools

Nathan Bernier, KUT News

Picture 90 educational volunteers: That’s the number of AmeriCorps members the Austin school district is placing at two of its high schools for the next three years. 

It’s all part of the School Turnaround AmeriCorps initiative, a new program aimed at placing AmeriCorps members in some of the nation’s lowest performing schools. AISD was one of thirteen school districts that were chosen nationwide.  

“The schools served by this program are very specific,” says Elisa Gleeson, Grants Management Specialist with the OneStar Foundation, which administers AmeriCorps Texas. “They had to have the capacity to be able to administer the program, but also had to qualify as low-performance institutions according to the U.S Department of Education.”

In Austin, only Reagan and Travis High School met the criteria.

Each school will be given 15 AmeriCorps members each year for the next three years. The work they perform will not only focus on helping students in math and literacy, but also providing emotional and social support through various individual and group sessions. The primary goal is to improve graduation rates, test scores, and the overall performance of each school.

What happens after the three-year period is uncertain. The future of the program depends on funding, which is currently supplied through a partnership between the U.S. Department of Education and the Corporation for National and Community Service.

“Ideally no one will need the help after three years, but if help was still needed, then both entities would run another application process much like they ran earlier this year to select the school,” Elisa said. “Also, they would need to make sure they have the funds allocated to support the program moving forward.”

This grant is one of 22 other similar programs supported by the OneStar Foundation, currently distributing more than $12.3 million AmeriCorps state grants to organizations across Texas.

Hector was born in Bogotá, Colombia and is in his Junior year of Journalism at the University of Texas at Austin.
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