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July 17, 2003
DH 03 TK040
Contact: Thomas Knox
(310) 243-3367


Cal State Dominguez Hills students may lose AmeriCorps opportunities

School teachers and children in Long Beach and L.A. will suffer if government funding does not come

Carson, Calif: – Students in elementary and middle schools from Long Beach, to Gardena to Los Angeles may lose student tutors from California State University, Dominguez Hills (CSUDH) due to looming cutbacks to the AmeriCorps Program. While the U.S. Congress grapples with the issue of appropriating desperately needed funding to AmeriCorps, volunteers throughout California including CSU Dominguez Hills’ students fear cuts from related programs on campus. CSU students comprised 22 percent or roughly 1,500 of California’s 7,000+ AmeriCorps members last year. The state number is projected to whither to 890 if government support does not come.

Caron Mellblom, professor of graduate education at CSU Dominguez Hills, is the coordinator of the Urban Service Education Corps (USEC) one of two campus programs supported by AmeriCorps. Thirty-four CSUDH students provided in-classroom assistance to six area middle schools including four in Long Beach last year. Mellblom is not optimistic about the future of her USEC program, which she estimates may be gutted by 50 percent or more.

“This past year, we worked with 500 kids and when you figure we had 34 members, and they each put in a minimum of 900 hours, that is 30,000 hours of free service to those kids,” she explained. “That’s priceless. With these cuts, we may be able to work with 100 kids for a total of 5,000 hours.”

“I love to learn and the experience of learning,” said Sharon Bordeaux, a liberal studies student who worked in the USEC program last year. “Teaching is the next logical step from that, and this program put me right where I wanted to be.” Bordeaux said cuts to AmeriCorps could strip her of precious hands-on experience that she gained while working with the students at Hill Classical Middle School in Long Beach. “I still can’t believe that they are making these cuts,” she continued. “They are cutting the future. Future teachers won’t have this opportunity, and the kids won’t get the help they need.”

Across the nation, 140 city mayors recently appealed to the White House, and more than 240 businesses including Starbucks and Cisco Systems took out full-page ads in the New York Times and the Financial Times in support of the effort to save AmeriCorps.

In the wake of such widespread public discontent, a Senate Appropriations Committee approved a $100 million stopgap for AmeriCorps last week. An additional $100 million short of what AmeriCorps officials estimated would keep them fully funded; the measure is expected to support thousands of displaced volunteers. After a joint Senate and House committee, whose members have not even been named yet, reviews the proposal, it will be passed on for the President’s approval. The time crunch is on though as Congress looks ahead to their summer recess next week.

Several issues are to blame for the problems in AmeriCorps, including a lack of federal support, yet the program’s Achilles heel arose over a complex accounting practice dispute in how the program managed the money for its volunteer workers’ education awards, which are given upon completion of the program.

Unless Congress and President Bush take definitive action soon to bolster AmeriCorps funding, volunteers across the nation and here at Cal State Dominguez Hills will not be able to return to area classrooms to help the students of Long Beach and Los Angeles unified school districts. Until then, America’s community-service program and its student volunteers will remain in limbo, and local K-12 school children must go forward without the assistance of hands-on tutors from Cal State Dominguez Hills.

Note: Please call Thomas Knox at (310) 243-3367 for a list of Long Beach and Los Angeles area schools impacted by cutbacks in the AmeriCorps program.

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