NEW PALTZ — The AmeriCorps program at the State University of New York at New Paltz has earned high praise from state and federal administrators.

In a recent letter to the SUNY New Paltz officials, Mary Pfeiffer, program administrator for AmeriCorps in New York Governor George E. Pataki’s Office of National and Community Service, referred to the SUNY New Paltz AmeriCorps program as “exemplary” and “a model for new programs.”

Also commenting on the outstanding program was Cheryl Blankenship, a senior program officer at the Corporation for National Service, in Washington D.C. Blankenship noted that she was impressed with the partnerships established in the New Paltz community.

The New Paltz AmeriCorps Project is funded by a grant written by program co- directors, Tonda Highley, associate dean of student advising and director of career advising and fieldwork, and Robin Cohen, assistant dean of students for student development. AmeriCorps is a domestic Peace Corps, launched in 1994, by President Bill Clinton. This national movement focuses on “getting things done” by serving communities in areas of the environment, human needs, public safety and education.

The New Paltz AmeriCorps program serves 600 youth in after school, day care and recreational programs, and impacts the lives of more than 700 migrant children. The program, which had its second-year kick-off in mid-September, plans to expand its services to disadvantaged, disabled and at-risk youth and families at nine sites in the New Paltz region. “We will have a total of 100 members committed to getting things done in the community,” said Michelle Rosenbaum, program coordinator.

“Your influence in providing mentoring and tutoring, a safe place after school, and day care to hundreds of youth is a testament to your commitment to develop and nurture the relationship that SUNY New Paltz has with the citizens of the New Paltz community,” Blankenship said.

The five new sites which joined the AmeriCorps program in September are: United Cerebral Palsy of Ulster County; Wallkill High School; Family of New Paltz; the Mental Health Association in Ulster County, Inc.; and the Flag Program at Ulster County Board of Cooperative Educational Services.

The four sites supported during the initial year, and continuing with the program this year are: The Children’s Center of New Paltz, the Migrant Education Outreach Program, the High School Equivalency Program and the New Paltz Youth Center.

“It is a win-win proposition,” said Rosenbaum. “Sites in the community gain hard working AmeriCorps members, and members gain invaluable skills providing community service,” she added.

SUNY New Paltz students join the ranks of the more than 100,000 AmeriCorps members nationwide. Undergraduates in the program serve 305 hours of community serve and earn an $800 education award voucher upon completion of their term of service. Graduates serve 458 hours and earn a $1200 award. Vouchers may be used to offset student loans or other educational expenses, according to Rosenbaum.

In 1997-98, SUNY New Paltz AmeriCorps members earned more than $60,000 in education awards. It is expected that the expanded 1998-99 program will earn members more than $90,000 in education awards.