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Escaping Welfare by Joining the Corps

January 10, 1998|JOHN POPE

Forty-seven AmeriCorps volunteers were sworn in at Irvine Valley College on Friday under a federal welfare reform program in Orange County for the first time.

"This is a big step in all of your lives," Fawn Tanriverdi, a counselor and AmeriCorps coordinator at Irvine Valley College, told the volunteers. "This is an opportunity to say goodbye to welfare."

The college was one of 15 community colleges statewide, and the only in Orange County, selected to participate in the AmeriCorps Literacy Program, designed to give welfare recipients career training and work experience.

The 47 volunteers sworn in Friday, who completed their training during the holidays, will each work 20 hours a week in the Irvine and Tustin unified school districts as literacy tutors. All the volunteers are students at Irvine Valley, between the ages of 22 and 31, and all support families.

After working a total of about 720 hours during the next 9 to 12 months, the tutors will each receive a $2,363 scholarship toward future educational expenses.

In July, the state's community colleges received a $1.8- million grant from AmeriCorps. Irvine Valley will receive $100,000 in funding each year for the next three years to provide early childhood education training, work experience and stipends for those who complete the program.

Shelly Riddle, 30, said the program will provide her with valuable work experience, allowing her to build a resume while working toward a degree in psychology.

Riddle, a single mother of three, said her upcoming assignment at Tustin's Barbara Benson Elementary will help in her eventual goal to become an elementary school counselor. "I'm trying to make my future secure, and this is a major step in that process," she said. "I don't want to depend on anyone to support me or my children."

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