Southern Miss Center Receives Federal Grant to Help At-Risk Students

HATTIESBURG, Miss. - This is a press release from the University of Southern Mississippi.

The Center for Community and Civic Engagement (CCCE) at The University of Southern Mississippi has been awarded a $379,076 federal grant from the Corporation for National and Community Service to implement the Campus Link AmeriCorps Program. The funds will support the program for year one of a three-year cycle.

Through Campus Link, 80 AmeriCorps members (both full-time and part-time) will tutor 4th-8th grade students in-school and after-school across South Mississippi.

Campus Link partners with local agencies such as Hawkins Elementary School, Oseola McCarty Youth Development Center, and the Salvation Army Boys & Girls Club to help decrease dropout rates and increase academic engagement in participating high-risk students.

“This funding from the CNCS is a validation of the work that Campus Link has been doing for the past six years,” said CCCE Director Christy Arrazattee. “We know from our research that Campus Link makes a difference for participating youth, but receiving financial and federal support to continue providing one-on-one, consistent tutoring for the next three years will allow us to focus even more on increased impact.”

Arrazattee notes that the program’s impact extends to the University, as well, with many Southern Miss students receiving Segal Educational Awards that can be used to continue their USM education.

Following the initial year of implementation, new funds for the program will be awarded during years two and three. “They will either grant us the same amount, or we have the option to ask for more funding if we can justify a need,” said CCCE Project Director Samantha Jones.

Jones points out that the majority of AmeriCorps members affiliated with the CCCE are Southern Miss students, although one need not be a college student to join AmeriCorps. For full and half-time members, a full term of service is one year. Full-time members serve a minimum of 1,700 hours and half-time members serve at least 900 hours. “Minimum time” position are also available which require 300 service hours in a three-month period.

The grant’s primary focus is to reduce the high school dropout rates among five of Mississippi’s most at-risk school districts. Mississippi’s high dropout rates and low test scores depict a critical need. The state’s reported dropout rate of 13.9 percent is significantly higher than the national average of 7 percent.

“By placed trained AmeriCorps members in overburdened schools and at after-school programs, young student who are struggling can receive the one-on-one time and attention they would not otherwise receive both in and out of the classroom,” said Jones.

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