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AmeriCorps Makes a Difference in Connecticut Communities

FOR A.M. RELEASE: Tuesday, January 5, 1999

HARTFORD, Jan. 5 — A new study shows that teachers love them. Parents praise them. Kids want to grow up to be them. They are AmeriCorps members — the more than 600 individuals of all ages dedicating more than 140,000 hours each year in classrooms and libraries, in shelters and soup kitchens, and in nurseries and nursing homes in Connecticut’s most underserved communities.

The first comprehensive evaluation ever conducted of a state AmeriCorps program finds that "Connecticut’s AmeriCorps experience is an overwhelmingly effective one." The seven programs reviewed this year by Urban Policy Strategies, a research and policy group in New Haven, operate in Bridgeport, Hartford, New Haven, New London, Meriden, Middletown and Waterbury.

The study was commissioned by the Connecticut Commission on National and Community Service which oversees the state’s AmeriCorps programs. The report contains compelling evidence that the state’s children benefit from the academic and social support provided by AmeriCorps. Further, the report shows a direct correlation between AmeriCorps’ crime prevention activities in Bridgeport and reduced crime rates of targeted neighborhoods. Finally, the study concludes that Connecticut’s AmeriCorps programs operate cost-effectively, and that AmeriCorps members use their educational awards for academic advancement and are committed to continued community volunteerism.

Commenting on the report, State Representative William R. Dyson, chairman of the Commission, noted, "This study shows that AmeriCorps works. It proves that the dedicated attention of one caring person makes a huge difference in helping children succeed in school, and in revitalizing needy neighborhoods."

Dyson also was pleased at the report’s finding that AmeriCorps in Connecticut is a cost effective way to provide a wide array of much-needed services to children and families living in some of the state’s poorest neighborhoods. With limited funds, and an average of two staff and between 20 to 40 AmeriCorps members at each program, the report finds that "literally thousands of children, families and individuals have been offered — either directly or through a volunteer network — programs in mentoring/tutoring, child care" and a variety of other services ranging from shelters to crime prevention.

The author of the report, Marta Elisa Moret, president of Urban Policy Strategies, notes that "The mentoring and tutoring programs for children across seven towns and cities in this state do keep children from losing ground educationally and developmentally. Of course we know that it takes much more than AmeriCorps to help our state’s poorest, most underserved children truly succeed in school, but there is no question that AmeriCorps is a valuable partner in the remedy to improve school outcomes for children."

In addition, the study reveals that AmeriCorps reduces violent crime in urban neighborhoods. Bridgeport’s Safe Neighborhoods AmeriCorps Partnership, run by the Police Department and the Regional Youth Substance Abuse Program, trains 20 AmeriCorps members to provide residents of high crime areas with smoke detectors, burglar alarms, peepholes for doors, window pins and other safety devices.

"When we examined recent crime statistics to see if any rapes, assaults, burglaries or robberies occurred in the more than 1,500 homes and apartments where Safe Neighborhoods had installed crime prevention devices, we found only one incidence — an attempted burglary, " stated Moret. Bridgeport has experienced a more than 30 percent decrease in crime rates over the last five years that the Police Department attributes to a combination of community policy and programs such as Safe Neighborhoods.

Joyce Pratt directs the Bridgeport Safe Neighborhoods Partnership and can be reached at (203) 335-8835. The other six AmeriCorps programs evaluated by Moret, and their contacts, are:

  • Bridgeport InterRegional AmeriCorps,
    Nina Castellion (203) 366-9417
  • Hartford AmeriCorps,
    Jeffrey Parks (860) 296-3521
  • LEAP (Leadership, Education and Athletics in Partnership), Hartford, New Haven, New London,
    Brad Williams (203) 773-0770
  • City SERVE! AmeriCorps, Meriden,
    Karyn Krystock (203) 630-4208
  • Community Action for Greater Middlesex County, Middletown,
    John LaRosa (860) 344-3493
  • Ancestors AmeriCorps, Waterbury,
    Michele White (203) 575-9799

AmeriCorps was established in 1993 by President Clinton and a bipartisan coalition of congressional leaders to engage Americans of all ages in intensive service. Working through a network of state commissions like the Connecticut Commission on National and Community Service and more than 1,000 local and national nonprofit organizations such as United Way and Youthbuild, AmeriCorps members:

  • teach children to read in some of the toughest schools,
  • help communities rebuild after natural disasters,
  • protect neighborhoods from the ravages of drugs and crime,
  • construct affordable housing, and
  • provide health care to people living in rural areas and Native American villages.

In return for their year of service, AmeriCorps members receive an education award of $4,725 to help pay for college or to pay back student loans.

For more information, contact Jacqueline Johnson, Executive Director of the Connecticut Commission on National and Community Service (860/947-1827) or Marta Elisa Moret, president of Urban Policy Strategies (203/562-2307).

Contact: Connie Fraser


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