UO program for rural Oregon stays strong in a time of reduced support

EUGENE, Ore. -- (Sept. 20, 2012) -- An AmeriCorps program administered by the University of Oregon is beginning a 19th year of service to rural Oregon, buoyed by especially strong support at a time when state resources for similar efforts are limited.

Through Resource Assistance for Rural Environments or RARE, 25 graduate-level students depart immediately for rural communities across Oregon. They’ll spend the next 11 months living and working in the state’s smaller towns, assisting officials with projects that improve economic, social and environmental conditions.

With funding for the $2 million program secure for the next three years, “we can ensure that AmeriCorps members are bringing critical support to rural Oregon,” said Megan Smith, executive director of the UO Community Service Center, which administers the program.

An AmeriCorps grant of $200,000 annually leverages the additional support necessary for the program. Key partners include Oregon Food Bank, Oregon Main Street program and Oregon Volunteers!

Under RARE, qualified college graduates (with a bachelor's degree) and graduate-level students who are selected as RARE AmeriCorps members assist communities and agencies in developing plans that sustain natural resources and improve rural economic conditions. In return, students gain community building and leadership skills.

Terra Wilcoxson, who in June earned a master’s degree in architecture from the university, will help the city of Tillamook implement a master plan for parks. “It will be incredibly helpful for future job opportunities,” she said.

Khristina Fulkerson, who earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Humboldt State University, will work with the Oregon International Port of Coos Bay on projects to improve the local and regional economy.

“It’s an amazing opportunity to do this great work with a level of professionalism and independence that I wouldn’t expect to find easily elsewhere,” she said.

Among the communities that will be served, three participants will work in Roseburg and others will be located from Port Orford to Lakeview to LaGrande. Projects for RARE participants include downtown redevelopment programs, local and regional food systems, tourism-based economic development and renewable-energy initiatives, among others.

About the University of Oregon

The University of Oregon is among the 108 institutions chosen from 4,633 U.S. universities for top-tier designation of "Very High Research Activity" in the 2010 Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education. The UO also is one of two Pacific Northwest members of the Association of American Universities.

MEDIA CONTACT: Matt Cooper, UO media relations, 541-346-8875, mattc@uoregon.edu

SOURCE: Megan Smith, executive director, Community Service Center, 541-346-3881, smith@uoregon.edu