The Parkersburg Area Community Foundation (PACF) administers several "Field of Interest Funds" created by caring donors to target specific needs in an important area of community life, such as arts and culture, youth and family, recreation, senior citizens, health and wellness, and/or education. Field of Interest Funds allow the Foundation to support schools, libraries, and nonprofits organizations working for the betterment of our region, including supporting organization providing educational resources and instruction to children and adults throughout the Foundation's service area.

A $10,336 grant from the PACF in Spring 2021 enabled the Education Alliance to provide training and resources for its AmeriCorps mentors to integrate mental health best practices into ongoing mentoring of at-risk students in Wood County schools. This grant was made possible by three educational-focused Field of Interest Funds (the Frank Sheppard Memorial Fund, the Homer and Edith Hickman Charitable Fund, and the Eldon L. Miller Education Fund) and by a Donor Advised Fund (the Esbenshade Advised Fund).

During the 2021-22 school year, The Education Alliance distributed, trained, and evaluated the use of the “Social Emotional Learning” Toolkit to support student mental health needs. The Toolkit, developed by Dr. Christine Schimmel from WVU, provided a basis for training AmeriCorps and other volunteer mentors to complement and extend the support provided by school counselors, psychologists, and other mental health experts that serve students.

The Toolkit was implemented in Wood County by four AmeriCorps mentors who serve 72 at-risk students. Students received at least 20 mentoring sessions during the school year. Mentors provided support for students’ emotional and academic needs and helped them develop positive attitudes towards learning and problem solving, build social skills, and create wellness habits.

In addition to mentoring students, the Education Alliance's AmeriCorp members work on creative ways to help students build their academic skills. Kristin, an Education Alliance Mentor in Wood County who works with students at Williamstown Elementary School, decided to build pathways on the school's playground (pictured right) that are fun and interactive and teach students how to solve basic math problems. “There are still students that play on it instead of playing on the playground, and they seem very motivated. They have a lot of fun with it, even when they’re learning,” said Kristin.

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