Success Story: Jennifer Shelton

Success Story: Jennifer Shelton

Thanks to the supporters of Americans Helping Americans® our partner in West Virginia, Big Creek People in Action (BCPIA), is able to provide tutors to students at the McDowell County Career and Technology Center (MCCTC).

Students have a wide variety of programs to choose from, including automotive technology, building maintenance, coding apps and game design, computer systems/hardware support, early childhood education, law and public safety, licensed practical nursing, small engine repair, welding, and more.

In 2010, MCCTC school counselor Katie Linkous noticed that some of the students at the career and technology center were deficient in basic math and reading skills. After reaching out to BCPIA, together, they arranged a partnership to fill the need for remedial courses.

This led individual career and technical course assistance, pre-preparation for pre- and post- National Occupational Competency Testing Institute (NOCTI) testing, assistance with OSHA-10 (offering 10 hours of training for all construction and general industry professionals) and WIN online learning for earning a ready-to-work credential for jobs across occupations and industries.

In 2018-2019, 99 percent of student scores increased from pre-NOCTI benchmark tests in the fall, followed by an audit post-test in the spring prior to the student completing the program. Five of these students received a Governor’s Workforce Credential for meeting such high standards.

Among the success stories is the MCCTC’s graduation speaker in 2019, Jennifer Shelton. Jennifer completed the practical nursing program and went on to become an RN then earned a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) which are typically given more responsibility, supervisory roles and higher salaries.

Jennifer is currently completing classes to become a nurse practitioner and has chosen to stay in McDowell County now working at a local health clinic in a supervisory position.

“She is just one of many success stories.”

Americans Helping Americans® Supports Appalachian Outreach Back-to-School Bash

Americans Helping Americans® Supports Appalachian Outreach Back-to-School Bash

“Everything is free” at Americans Helping Americans® partner Appalachian Outreach’s “Back-to-School Bash” in Jefferson City, Tennessee.

“This is a fun community event to help kick off the school year,” explained Appalachian Outreach Executive Director Jean-Ann Washam. “All school-age children in Jefferson and Grainger counties can attend and receive a new backpack full of school supplies.”

In addition to the school supplies, there were plenty of fun activities for the children including moon bounces, face painting, games, and plenty of treats such as popcorn, cotton candy and snow cones.

For the parents, who were relieved of the burden of trying to figure out how they were going to pay for their children’s school supplies, several local assistance agencies set up informational tables to inform them of what services might be available to them.

The children were so excited and happy to receive their new school supplies, including first-grader Emma, who upon receiving hers, exclaimed “I can’t wait to start school!”

Kate, a mother of four, commented, “With four kids it is very hard to afford all the school supplies they need. This event is a big help to my family.”

“Thank you for all you do to support Appalachian Outreach and this event,” said Jean-Ann. “Without Americans Helping Americans® many families in our area would struggle to provide needed school supplies for their children.”

The “Extra Cool Afterschool” program goes the extra mile for students in McDowell County, West Virginia

The “Extra Cool Afterschool” program goes the extra mile for students in McDowell County, West Virginia

Thursday, August 15, was the exciting start of a new school year for the children who attend Southside K-8 school in McDowell County, West Virginia.

An equally exciting day was Tuesday, August 20, for about two dozen or so Southside students who are fortunate enough to be able to attend the “Extra Cool Afterschool” program hosted by Americans Helping Americans® partner there, Big Creek People in Action (BCPIA) for the past 10 years.

Without this afterschool program, many of these elementary school children would “go home to a house with limited food and a parent who isn’t concerned about making them a hot meal for supper,” reports BCPIA co-executive director Dyanne Spriggs.

For the children who live in the area of the tiny community of Caretta, they are able to ride their school bus and get dropped off at BCPIA’s headquarters where the afterschool program is held. For children who do not live nearby, BCPIA staff goes to the school to pick up the students.

The students who attend the afterschool program have a busy schedule every Monday through Thursday beginning when they arrive at 3:45 p.m. for a computer lab until 4:20 p.m. when they have a break to go wash up for supper.

And what a supper it is as the children receive a healthy full course meal with typical menus being baked pork chops, green beans, mac and cheese, mixed fruit, roll and milk one day, meat loaf, mashed potatoes, green beans and applesauce the next, Italian chicken, potatoes, green beans and applesauce, the following day, and what is likely their favorite; pizza, with salad, corn and pears.

Following their meal, it’s time to brush their teeth (perhaps using their Mighty Molars dental kits provided by Americans Helping Americans®) and then time to do their homework for a half hour with the help of tutors who are there to answer questions and give them the individualized attention they may need but do not get in a classroom with 29 classmates.

Then, depending on the weather, the children get another half hour to play outside or exercise indoors, get a light snack such as graham crackers and peanut butter, or maybe even “ants on a log” (a.k.a celery with peanut butter and raisins).

While most of the kids in the afterschool program attend school nearby, a few, such as Karla are home schooled.

Last year, 10-year-old Karla was out on the playground at the same time as the children in the afterschool program and expressed an interest in signing up to join them and her mother signed her up for the summer program offered by BCPIA.

“At first she was very shy because she didn’t really know the kids,” said Dyanne. “But eventually she made friends and started the enjoying program.”

Another little girl told of how much she especially enjoys the tutoring she receives in the program because “her parents never help her with her homework,” said Dyanne.

“I really like the way you all help me with my homework and give me my spelling words,” she told one of her tutors. “I’ve been doing better in school since I’ve been here.”

Several of them also really appreciate the help they receive with special projects, such as for the science fair and social studies fair where they are provided with the presentation boards, computers to do their research, and help with printing out the information and putting it on their boards.

“I would have not been able to do my project without your help,” said one student.

And all of the kids express their gratitude “every day about the good food they eat here,” added Dyanne.

Thanks to the supporters of Americans Helping Americans® we are able to support BCPIA after school feeding program, at a cost of $5 per child per day.

“One of our most rewarding programs is our afterschool program,” says Dyanne. “Many of our parents do not place literacy or education as a high priority for their children.

“They majority of our kids have parents who are on some kind of public assistance and don’t work. Feeding these kids a good supper and snack and helping them with their homework are our greatest priorities.

“We face many challenges when it comes to educating our children, but with the support from Americans Helping Americans®, we are able to extend the reach of our education and afterschool program so that more young people receive the best opportunity to succeed.

“With support from Americans Helping Americans®, we can provide access to resources and networks that will, over time, make a large, significant difference in our community.”

New Partner Spotlight: Sprouting Hope of Marion, Virginia

New Partner Spotlight: Sprouting Hope of Marion, Virginia

Among Americans Helping Americans® newest partners is Sprouting Hope, located in Marion, Virginia in the rural southwest region of the state.

Sprouting Hope’s mission is to feed the community by growing and sharing healthy produce, with the vision of everyone having access to healthy food.

“With a focus on serving and empowering low-income individuals, we not only give a fish, but also teach how to fish by making the program accessible for participants to work and learn in the garden,” states the organization.

Everything grown is distributed to volunteers, food pantries, soup kitchens and a local free clinic. In addition, Sprouting Hope offers youth education and therapeutic gardening programs for people in the mental health community.

It’s 13,800 square foot garden serves more than 300 families with approximately three tons of fresh produce annually.

Sprouting Hope is located in Smyth County, which as a population of less than 6,000 and a median household income of $38,900, much lower than the statewide average of $68,114. Indeed, the services of Sprouting Hope are much needed.

Fresh produce provided to households by Sprouting Hope is key to healthier diets, particularly for growing children in a county where 55 percent of them qualify for free and reduced-price meals and one-third are expected to develop Type 2 diabetes in their lifetime and are at risk becoming seriously obese.

Low-income rural Appalachian communities are at an even greater risk than the general population, so access to nutritious food is vital to their health.

With funding from Americans Helping Americans, Sprouting Hope will be able to restart their Homegrown project which allows applicants to participate in a multi-year education course teaching them how to start a farm in their own backyard.

In the first year, they will learn the basics of farming including proper ways to ward off insect pests and diseases and learn more about the options and benefits of organic gardening. In the second year of the curriculum, participants will be instructed on how to qualify for food certifications and sell their produce at local farmers markets.

Fresh food and self-sustainability will work wonders for this community and this project can be emulated across America.