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      Volunteers sign up for AmeriCorps

      Twelve new volunteers are on a mission to improve literacy among kids in schools throughout Marquette and Alger counties. They will spend this year in the AmeriCorps improving kids' reading skills.

      "When you're in a large classroom, there's not as much one-on-one. You may oversee a student that may need more help, so it kind of helps them in the long run, giving them that opportunity to work at their own pace," said Kelli VanderBaan, volunteer.

      With more than 500 students showing improvement, last year's program was a success.

      This year the program will continue with its focus on literacy. Each volunteer will work at a specific school daily and meet with a small group of kids that are reading at benchmark.

      For many it's their first time volunteering; some are doing this to gain teaching experience, others are retired teachers and are returning for another year.

      "We could see results, and you could see the improvements in the kids' reading. That was real rewarding because it's just so important for them to get up to grade level especially in the lower grades," said Diane Jarvi, volunteer.

      They will be working in elementary schools in Munising, Marquette, Negaunee, and Ishpeming. However, before they start, volunteers will spend the next two weeks training at Marquette Alger Regional Educational Service Agency, or MARESA.

      "Working with children that are a little more difficult, to classroom management...handle with care, they call it. So we hit a lot of different topics so the members are prepared; they leave here with some more professional development," said Chad Rowley, coordinator.

      Volunteers will complete 1,700 hours of service work. At the end of the year they will receive a $5,500 education award.