[caption id="attachment_52394" align="aligncenter" width="600"]<img src="https:\/\/pocahontastimes.com\/wp-content\/uploads\/sites\/25\/2019\/07\/Energy-Express.jpg" alt="" width="600" height="365" class="size-full wp-image-52394" \/> students in mentor Allie Luikart\u2019s Energy Express class work on family scrapbooks. They made collages and wrote about members of their family in the second of six themed activities for the summer program. S. Stewart photo[\/caption]\r\n\r\nSuzanne Stewart\r\nStaff Writer\r\n\r\nFor six weeks in the summer, part of Marlinton Elementary School is transformed into a learning camp, directed by Energy Express. Youngsters in kindergarten through sixth grade participate in the free day camp, where they work with mentors and volunteers to improve their reading and writing skills, as well as discover their inner creativity.\r\n\r\n\u201cThe foundation is the reading part of it,\u201d site coordinator Dustin Lambert said. \u201cIn addition to that, there\u2019s a writing component, drama, self-expressed art \u2013\u00a0which is really important. It\u2019s not just cookie cutter art. It\u2019s \u2018here\u2019s some found objects, be creative.\u2019 That kind of art.\u201d\r\n\r\nThe students have recreation time, and breakfast and lunch are served each day. \r\n\r\nThis year, mentors Kaitlin Sparks, Katie Gibson and Allie Luikart have drawn inspiration from the outdoors and wildlife to create an inviting environment for their young people. Sparks and Luikart decorated their classrooms with a camping theme, while Gibson created an underwater theme, referring to the students as a school of fish.\r\n\r\n\u201cWhen the mentors come, they already have an idea of what they\u2019re doing,\u201d Lambert said. \u201cI always marvel at that. I\u2019ve been doing this for five years, and I never had it work out to where they had the same themes.\u201d\r\n\r\nEach mentor is assigned an age group, and they work with those students each day, with the help of community and student volunteers and community coordinator Dondi Stemple.\r\n\r\n\u201cIt\u2019s a wonderful program,\u201d Stemple said. \u201c[Extension agent Luci Mosesso] said something to me about Energy Express and I was like, \u2018I don\u2019t know.\u2019 When I found out what I was going to be doing, I decided I had to help. This definitely is worthwhile.\u201d\r\n\r\nStemple was so thrilled with the number of volunteers who have already come to work with the students, that she created a door decoration to celebrate their contribution. Before a volunteer leaves for the day, they must trace their hand and decorate the piece of paper with their name to add to the door.\r\n\r\n\u201cLook at all of our volunteers,\u201d she said, gesturing to the \u201chand-filled\u201d door.\r\n\r\nThe volunteers help by reading to individual students and groups, as well as organizing supplies, including the copious amounts of art supplies and books.\r\n\r\nA stroll through the multi-purpose room during Energy Express may make a visitor wonder why there are piles of cardboard and paper on the floor and tables filled with art supplies, but it isn\u2019t trash \u2013\u00a0it\u2019s an art project waiting to happen.\r\n\r\n\u201cWe\u2019re basically pack rats,\u201d Lambert said, laughing.\r\n\r\n\u201cThis looks like somebody didn\u2019t clean up,\u201d Stemple added, pointing to a pile of packing material. \u201cWe\u2019ve got trees. There\u2019s a trunk of the tree and branches.\u201d\r\n\r\nThe collection of supplies has become a marvel to the mentors who are always in awe when Stemple is able to deliver on their requests.\r\n\r\n\u201cThe girls keep asking, \u2018is this like Mary Poppins\u2019 bag? I keep asking you for something, and you go get it,\u2019\u201d Stemple explained. \u201cThat\u2019s what teachers do. This is all crammed in my cabinets because you never know when you\u2019ll need it.\u201d\r\n\r\nThat doesn\u2019t even touch on the number of books the program has available for students. Each mentor is required to have at least 64 age-appropriate books in their rooms, and they trade out for new ones throughout the six weeks.\r\n\r\nThe volunteers organized the books into piles according to the theme of each week. \r\n\r\nThis year, Energy Express is all about expanding from yourself to the world \u2013 the themes are Myself, Family, Friends, Home Place, Community and Make My World a Better Place.\r\n\r\n\u201cThe volunteers have put the books into groups \u2013 like this is family week \u2013\u00a0so you can go over there and there\u2019s a group for family week,\u201d Stemple said. \u201cThey\u2019ve gone through and stacked them, so when the mentors come in, they don\u2019t have to sort through all those books.\u201d\r\n\r\nThe students who participate aren\u2019t the only ones to benefit from Energy Express. The mentors and coordinators are employed as AmeriCorps members and receive a living allowance, as well as an education award which can be used toward college expenses.\r\n\r\nFor AmeriCorps members who do not plan to go to college, the education award can be passed on to a child or grandchild of the volunteer.\r\n\r\n\u201cI can hold on to that for seven years, so my oldest granddaughter is eleven \u2013\u00a0in seven years \u2013 she may possibly be ready to go into something, and I could then take advantage of that award,\u201d Stemple said.\r\n\r\nThe mentors, who must be registered college students, also get a boost to their r\u00e9sum\u00e9 and life experience. Of the three mentors this year, Gibson is the only one seeking a degree in education, but working with the students is just as helpful to the other mentors with other degrees in mind.\r\n\r\n\u201cThis is just an experience,\u201d Lambert said. \u201cI think it\u2019s more of a r\u00e9sum\u00e9 booster for mentors to say \u2018I was in a structured national service program.\u2019 This is considered volunteer work. This is considered community service, so I think there\u2019s a perk to that. They\u2019re not receiving a huge paycheck, but just to be able to say they worked for AmeriCorps, that really stands out on a r\u00e9sum\u00e9.\u201d\r\n\r\nEnergy Express would not be possible without the West Virginia University Extension Service and AmeriCorps, but the program also runs well because of community members who donate their time and supplies.\r\n\r\n\u201cWe would like to say \u2018thank you\u2019 to every one that\u2019s volunteered,\u201d Stemple said. \r\n\r\nAlthough the program has quite a collection of supplies, Lambert and Stemple said they would graciously accept donations \u2013\u00a0including art supplies and child-appropriate magazines and books.\r\n\r\nTo give the community an opportunity to experience Energy Express as a whole, the group will host an open house Tuesday, July 23, 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at MES.\r\n\r\n\u201cThe community is welcome to come and see what we\u2019re doing and what Energy Express is all about,\u201d Lambert said.