More than $3M awarded to promote public health and environmental literacy through NAU’s Center for Service and Volunteerism – The NAU Review

NAU’s Center for Service and Volunteerism (CSV), which supports a vibrant and diverse network of individuals and partner agencies focused on making an impact to local communities, and just received two grants totaling more than $3 million in funding for two programs to help advance their mission.

The first award, more than $1 million over the next three years, is earmarked to launch a new Environmental Literacy Corps AmeriCorps program. Funding comes from the Governor’s Office of Youth, Faith, and Family and will engage AmeriCorps members to serve with local agencies and organizations to promote environmental literacy in northern Arizona and beyond. With six distinct biomes, three national parks and six national forests, Arizona is an ideal classroom for environmental education.

Environmental Literacy Corps members will work with host sites such as the National Park Service, US Forest Service, City of Flagstaff, Flagstaff Unified School District and NAU departments and academic units to deliver environmental education programming to visitors, recreators, students and the general public. Environmental education has been shown to have a breadth of positive impacts, ranging from improved passion and interest in learning to growth in confidence, autonomy and leadership.

AmeriCorps members commit to a term of service and in exchange receive a modest living stipend and an education award that can be applied toward tuition or student loans. Additionally, they receive training, experience and a network of professionals in the field of environmental education who can help guide their future career paths. Members may serve part-time or full-time and commit to terms of 3-12 months.

“CSV is thrilled to build upon our decades of experience managing effective AmeriCorps programming and education expertise to bring attention and support to environmental literacy in northern Arizona,” CSV director Erin Kruse said. “Working with a robust partner network and dedicated members who are passionate about both service and the environment, we cannot wait to see the positive impact that ELC has on our community.”

Through this grant, CSV’s plans include:

  • Trains 8,000 people annually
  • Engaging 28 Environmental Literacy Corps members annually
  • Partnering with 16 local organizations or agencies

The second grant of $2.1 million over the next three years from AmeriCorps, the national federal agency for national service and volunteerism, was awarded to the CSV and NAU’s Public Health Program to support 50 AmeriCorps members, who will help meet public health needs of local communities and rebuild the nation’s public health sector with Public Health AmeriCorps.

Public Health AmeriCorps, a partnership between AmeriCorps and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, supports the recruitment, training and development of a new generation of public health leaders. Supported by a five-year, $400 million investment from the American Rescue Plan Act, Public Health AmeriCorps will help meet public health needs of local communities by providing surge capacity and support while also creating pathways to public health-related careers.

With this new funding, CSV and the Public Health Program will provide paid internship opportunities for 50 students in their final semester of undergraduate coursework to increase public health capacity across the region, while helping to prepare the next generation of public health professionals. Of the $709,000 in annual funding, $422,000 will go directly to public health interns in the form of stipend payments. Students will receive an additional $160,000 in education awards from AmeriCorps that can be used to pay for tuition or student loans.

“We are excited to see this program come to life in collaboration with the Public Health Program in an innovative way,” Kruse said. “This is a great opportunity to engage AmeriCorps members in vital public health projects and help launch their careers in the field.”

“Establishing AmeriCorps service positions for our current NAU students is meaningful in so many ways. Students are financially and professionally supported during the final steps of their training, new partnerships will be developed to address health priorities in communities across the region and this program will open doors for new public health professionals to stay and work in Arizona,” Kristen Konkel said, senior lecturer in health sciences and the program area lead for the public health bachelor’s degree at NAU.

NAU’s Public Health AmeriCorps program builds on previous COVID-19 response and recovery work. In the past two years, CSV has expanded programming to focus on basic need support for individuals affected by COVID-19 including contact tracing, food security, housing assistance and other needs. Additionally, CSV launched the Tech Connect project to help older adults gain confidence and proficiency with using technology to stay connected with friends, family and health professionals during the pandemic by providing both iPads and the training to use them.

AmeriCorps continues to invest in the nation’s COVID-19 recovery. With existing programs in more than 40,000 locations across the country, AmeriCorps is uniquely positioned to bolster community response efforts. For two years, thousands of AmeriCorps members and AmeriCorps Seniors volunteers in all 50 states and US territories have continued their service, quickly adapting to meet the changing needs caused by the pandemic and have provided vital support, community response and recovery efforts, providing support to more than 12 million Americans, including 2.5 million people at vaccination sites.

For more information about AmeriCorps, CSV or Public Health AmeriCorps, please contact the NAU Center for Service and Volunteerism at [email protected] or (928) 523-6395.

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