Work-for-tuition projects announced

June 21, 1994|By Verne Kopytoff | Verne Kopytoff,Contributing Writer

WASHINGTON -- The national work-for-college-tuition program, AmeriCorps, announced its first round of community service projects for Maryland yesterday, making more than 100 slots available to help students pay for their education.

Eleven community service groups that have a presence in Maryland were named, ranging from Habitat for Humanity, a low-income home-building group, to Teach for America, a project that provides teachers and role models for urban and rural youth.

The program pays minimum wages to full-time student workers, plus $4,725 a year that can be applied to college tuition, vocational training or outstanding college loans. Part-timers will earn half that amount.

The all-volunteer youth army for community service will debut in September, with more spaces to be announced later in the summer. Slots for up to 20,000 students will be open nationwide this year, with President Clinton proposing 100,000 spaces by 1996.

No one is excluded from the program because of family income, as is often the case with government-funded financial aid.

Eli Segal, chief executive officer of AmeriCorps' parent organization, the Corporation for National Service, said competition among students hoping to take part will be intense.

"We've received 60,000 inquiries already, many months before the program begins," Mr. Segal said yesterday at a White House ceremony.

The agency was flooded with proposals from nonprofit organizations and federal agencies, with four out of five applications being rejected by peer-review groups of community leaders, academicians and organization staff, Mr. Segal said. He called those programs that were selected "the best of the best."

Altogether, 57 programs nationally, with 7,000 openings, were announced at the event, with an additional 150 tentatively scheduled to be announced later.

Magic Me of Baltimore won a $750,000 grant for its program that matches middle-school children with the elderly in nursing homes for a "one-on-one mentoring relationship." About 20 AmeriCorps volunteers will help teachers and students run the project starting in September.

"Instead of lecturing to kids about to succeed, we do it in relation to helping their elderly partner," said Lynn Bopp, director of development. "We're very excited."

She said the search for volunteers will begin immediately, through universities, service organizations and the national service headquarters.

AmeriCorps is much smaller than Mr. Clinton initially proposed last year, but Mr. Segal has said the program's small size would allow it to prove itself before the president asks Congress for more money.

For more information on the program, call 1-800-94A-CORPS.

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