Special to The Star
The Meridian Star
SCOOBA – A team of young National Civilian Community Corps members has been hard at work at East Mississippi Community College.
Seven young men and women representing AmeriCorps NCCC arrived at EMCC’s Scooba campus May 23 and immediately set to work on a long list of infrastructure and landscaping projects, completing mandatory eight-hour work days punctuated by breaks for special recognitions at campus events. One of those welcome breaks from the summer sun came Tuesday during a reception at EMCC’s F.R. Young Student Union to thank the team for its work.
“College campuses are such a great fit because we have these young people yearning to make a difference. And community colleges, with their satellite campus system, help us reach more deeply into Mississippi communities,” said David Mallery, executive director for Volunteer Mississippi, speaking to the AmeriCorps volunteers, EMCC administrators and special invited guests.
Volunteer Mississippi works with national service organizations like AmeriCorps NCCC to identify and facilitate service opportunities in Mississippi.
The AmeriCorps NCCC team, whose members range in age from 19 to 25 and hail from communities across the country, has worked at several locations, primarily in the South, participating in community service projects. The team formed in February at the Southern region AmeriCorps campus in Vicksburg and will continue its service mission until December.
“We worked in the Louisiana bayou to restore barrier islands. We spent two weeks working with Habitat for Humanity in New Orleans. Then another three-and-a-half weeks with Habitat in the Waveland area,” said team leader Megan Rawson, 25, of Newtown, Conn.
Until its departure Monday, the AmeriCorps team continued installing underpinnings for mobile cottages used for student housing at the Scooba campus and will complete a beach volleyball court behind the student union. Earlier the NCCC members planted flowers, built signs for the cottage areas, painted classrooms and replaced ceiling tiles.
While the student housing and cafeteria meals provided at EMCC are more luxurious than the team is accustomed to receiving, Scooba campus Vice President Dr. Andrea Mayfield says the AmeriCorps volunteers have more than paid their way with their labor.
“These young people have been sweating in the Mississippi heat and couldn’t have a better attitude about it. The contributions they’ve made to the campus are immediately noticeable and the Lion family will enjoy the fruits of their labor for years to come,” said Mayfield.
Linda Gates, EMCC’s district director of Job Placement and Work-based Learning and a commissioner for Volunteer Mississippi, suggested bringing an AmeriCorps team to EMCC and completed the application to NCCC. She said the experience has been a complete success and hopes to bring another AmeriCorps team to EMCC next year, possibly to work at EMCC’s Golden Triangle campus.
“We didn’t know what to expect from this but the success has been overwhelming. Don Clark (regional director for the NCCC Southern campus in Vicksburg) was just talking about wanting to build a long-term relationship with EMCC. We’re serving as a pilot and a model for other community colleges in Mississippi,” said Gates.
Clark, who oversees 11 states as Southern regional director, said Gates and EMCC showed “great initiative” in reaching out to NCCC.
“I hope to see more community colleges get involved with NCCC,” he said Tuesday at the Scooba campus.
Each member of the AmeriCorps NCCC team will receive a $5,000 scholarship to go toward a college education or to pay student loans when they complete their 10-month tours.