November 6, 2008


AmeriCorps workers ready to help


Joe McIntyre/staff photographer
AmeriCorps workers met Wednesday in SUNY Cortland’s Beard Building on Main Street with officials of the local agencies they will be working with. From left, AmeriCorps worker Jared Popoli talks with his site leader Amanda Barber of the Cortland County Soil and Water Conservation District, as fellow AmeriCorps worker Francis Prus talks with site leader Erica Danga of the Cortland Youth Bureau.

Staff Reporter

Justin Goodband has lived in Florida as a taco restaurant worker, and in Connecticut and Mississippi as a yeoman on a Navy submarine.
Back home in Cortland now, he has been working with young people through the city Youth Bureau and taking college courses while he figures out his career path.
The 20-year-old signed up this week as a volunteer worker for AmeriCorps, a U.S.-based program similar to the Peace Corps. He is one of 10 people, from recent high school graduate Francis Prus of Homer to 25-year-old Jared Popoli, also of Homer, who signed up for a commitment of at least nine months to volunteer with city and county agencies.
“I want the experience and I want to make an impact on youth,” said Goodband, who coached third- and fourth-grade soccer teams for the Youth Bureau this fall. “I’ll learn how to plan and run youth programs. I think that will be my career.”
The workers do 1,700 hours of service and receive a stipend to cover living expenses, which is $11,400. Workers usually serve for a year, and can sign up for a second year if they wish.
The program, part of the New York section of the national AmeriCorps, is being funded by a grant from SUNY Cortland’s Research Foundation of $148,000 per year for three years.
The volunteer workers also do community service projects.
Richard Kendrick, director of the college’s Institute for Civic Engagement, said he and co-coordinator Manny Lann of the county Youth Bureau began recruiting the workers in August and September.
Workers have also been assigned to Lime Hollow Nature Center, the county Convention and Visitors Bureau and Seven Valleys Health Coalition.
There are hundreds of AmeriCorps members in New York state, Kendrick said. Cortland’s program will be one of the smallest.
The experience attracts young people who are undecided about careers and have dabbled in different things, such as Goodband and Popoli, who graduated from SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry in 2005 and has managed an environmental education camp in South Carolina.
Popoli said he will work for the county Soil and Water Conservation District, helping to advise municipalities and landowners about keeping water and soil clean, and planting tree seedlings.
Prus, 18, just graduated from the Pulteney School in Vermont and decided he was not ready for college.
“About 50 of my classmates did something like this, taking a year off before going to college,” said Prus, who will work with Goodband in the Cortland Youth Bureau.
Michael Miller of Cortland, 23, works for the Franziska Racker Centers in Ithaca, is a substitute teacher for Onondaga-Cortland-Madison BOCES, takes courses at Wells College and belongs to the Air Force Reserve. He said he too is looking for direction and experience.
“Michael is going to hopefully take charge of our summer recreation program and build it up,” Lann said.


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