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AmeriCorps Set to Expand in Kentucky, Indiana

By Elizabeth KramerKentucky will get more AmeriCorps workers as part of the program’s national expansion.The federal government awarded more than $230 in grant money to states this week to expand AmeriCorps, a service program with hundreds of members already working in Kentucky. The expansion includes $2.8 million for service projects throughout the state involving more than 150 more AmeriCorps members.Eileen Cackowski is executive director of the state commission overseeing AmeriCorps programs in Kentucky. She says AmeriCorps members contribute to communities statewide and they earn more than an experience."Each of them will receive about $12,000 as a living allowance, and that’s taxed," she says. "And at the end of their service, they’ll receive a college scholarship that is equal to the Pell Grant, about $5300. So, this is money that goes right back into the economy."Cackowski says members in the new programs members will fulfill an array of roles — from assisting victims of domestic violence to helping senior citizens.The national service program now has 461 members in Kentucky.One new program that will get members because of the new funding involves a pilot project out of Northern Kentucky University."They’re going to send college students into high schools and middle schools to help encourage kids of that age to go to college," Cackowski says, "see if they can help them by removing some of the barriers, maybe by tutoring or maybe just making them aware of ways that they can make it in college."Cackowski says this project will involved 400 part-time college students and could be expanded statewide in future years.Cackowski says AmeriCorps members have become a valuable resource for many social service groups."It’s amazing the number of children who are tutored; the number of homes that are built, rehabbed; the number of homeless people who are put in a permanent home; the number of seniors that keep out of nursing homes. There’s a tremendous payback to Kentucky," she says.Indiana received more than $1.7 million in grants for more nearly 400 AmeriCorps members to work with state projects from Bloomington to Valparaiso.