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Released March 17, 2003


HATTIESBURG - A University of Southern Mississippi-based center has received a grant of nearly $212,000 to continue a service-learning program that provides opportunities for impoverished children and adults across the state.

The $211,890 grant from the Corporation for National and Community Service to the Mississippi Center for Community and Civic Engagement will allow continuation of the center's AmeriCorps*VISTA program for the 2003 calendar year.

"AmeriCorps*VISTA is a program that uses America's greatest resource – its bright, compassionate people – to help revitalize its poorest communities and provide opportunities for its many impoverished children and adults," said Dr. Tom Schnaubelt, CCCE director.

"The Mississippi AmeriCorps* VISTA service-learning initiative focuses on tutoring underachieving children, providing high-quality after-school programs, and promoting service-learning in Mississippi schools and institutions of higher learning," added program Director Celeste Brown -- a Jackson native, Southern Miss graduate and former director of emergency services for the South Central Mississippi chapter of the American Red Cross.

President Lyndon B. Johnson established the VISTA program (Volunteers in Service to America) in 1964 as part of the nation's "War on Poverty" in order to provide opportunities for Americans to serve full time to help thousands of low-income communities. Since 2000, the AmeriCorps*VISTA program at the CCCE has placed 55 VISTAs at sites throughout the state of Mississippi.

"The most rewarding thing about being a VISTA has been the opportunity to meet and work with so many different kinds of people," said Bethney Whittington, a recent VISTA graduate who devoted two terms of service to helping children at the Aldersgate mission in Hattiesburg.

"I have had the chance to work with and get to know not only children in the Hattiesburg community, but also so many wonderful people who work in nonprofit organizations, elementary school teachers and service-learning faculty here at Southern Miss," said Whittington, who currently is pursuing a graduate degree at Southern Miss.

The CCCE currently is accepting applications for new VISTAS. Persons seeking to apply or who need more information should contact Celeste Brown, the CCCE's AmeriCorps*VISTA director, at (601) 266-6876 or send e-mail to <celeste.t.brown@usm.edu>.



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July 16, 2003 9:48 AM