Busbee Corbett Elementary-Middle School Principal Laura Bacon wants some of her middle school students to visit USC Aiken for upcoming Saturday sessions that will offer them literacy skills, mentoring and a number of activities.

The program is coming through AmeriCorps, a national service initiative. Claflin University directs its own academy and now is expanding the program to USCA, where the School of Education and an AmeriCorps staffer will coordinate it. Volunteers are needed to participate.

“This is phenomenal,” said Bacon, who attended an introductory meeting last week. “It would be such a great experience for our middle school students. I hope their families will take advantage of this opportunity.”

With the help of educators, the academy is inviting students from Aiken, Barnwell, Allendale and Bamberg counties.

Rashad Paige, a recent Claflin University graduate, is an AmeriCorps staffer and is the program director at USCA. He is housed at USCA’s Business and Education Building. Additional volunteers will be a big help, he said.

“We’ve got 31 members now and need about 29 more,” he said. “We’re looking mostly for college students, as well as others who are willing to serve.”

Training for new members will begin off-campus on Saturday.

“In Calhoun County, we have students who need to be there,” Paige said. “We want to provide mentors and get them help with reading and writing. There are others who enjoy going to a college campus.”

Dr. Michelle Vanderburg, a USCA School of Education professor, has worked with Paige to develop the program. Through the state AmeriCorps organization, she obtained a national grant award to implement the project.

“Our primary goal is to help students with their literary skills, as well as one-on-one mentoring,” Vanderburg said. “Along with that, we want them to experience the atmosphere of the college, as well as beyond the campus.”

The Saturday Academy will run from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. New volunteer members will go through extensive training, starting off-campus Saturday. They also will conduct meetings during the week to discuss the previous session and to plan for the next one.

The Saturday Academy is intended to be invaluable, not only for the students, but also the for the volunteers. Sandra Chambers, a USC Aiken a senior elementary education major, stopped by Paige’s office on Tuesday to talk with him about her decision to volunteer.

“I want to be effective as a teacher,” she said. “This sounds very exciting, a positive experience for all of us.”

Senior writer Rob Novit is the Aiken Standard’s education reporter and has been with the newspaper since September 2001. He is a native of Walterboro and majored in journalism at the University of Georgia.

Academy Information

• Program - USC Aiken will hold an AmeriCorps program called USCA Saturday Academy. Volunteers will work with middle school students from four counties, serving as mentors and tutors and introducing the students to a college campus experience.

• Volunteering - About 29 people are needed to serve as volunteer “members” for the program. A training program will be held off-campus on Saturday.

• Registration - Prospective volunteers can still register Monday to participate. For more information, call Program Director Rashad Paige at 973-413-7664 or email rashadp@usca.edu.