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 PASS AmeriCorps Program Expands to San Diego

The San Diego County Office of Education (SDCOE) will be able to expand a powerful program that strives to keep kids in school and out of gangs with the help of a state grant.

PASS AmeriCorps will grow this school year to include four schools in San Diego and an additional school in Oceanside thanks to funding from California Volunteers, the state commission that runs AmeriCorps for California.

The money will allow SDCOE personnel to hire and train six additional full-time PASS AmeriCorps members bringing the total to 27. This year, the program will serve students in grades 3 through 12 at 21 schools across the county, including campuses in San Diego, Oceanside, Vista, and Valley Center.

The five schools that are new to the program are Memorial Prep Middle School, Horace Mann Middle, Sherman Elementary, and Rodriguez Elementary in San Diego as well as Laurel Elementary in Oceanside. Schools in high-need areas were selected to participate.

“We’re just a small piece of the puzzle that is providing support to schools that have asked for it,” said Anthony Ceja, who coordinates the PASS AmeriCorps program for SDCOE.

The PASS AmeriCorps members, who will serve as mentors for students at the schools, received training in August to prepare them for the school year.

The members provide one-on-one support meant to keep kids in school and out of gangs. In addition to the direct mentoring, the program also reaches students who participate in community service projects.

“My goal as a mentor is really to open their eyes and make them realize that their education and their commitment to the school are really going to create a better future for them,” said Mario Cordova, who is starting his third year as a mentor. “My goal is to empower them.”

The program is part of the nationwide AmeriCorps program, which engages more than 75,000 Americans in intensive service each year at nonprofits, schools, public agencies, and community and faith-based groups across the country. Since the program’s founding in 1994, more than 900,000 AmeriCorps members have contributed more than 1.2 billion hours in service across the country.

Photo: PASS AmeriCorps members met Aug. 25 to discuss the upcoming school year and participate in professional learning.