WSU AmeriCorps volunteers Rachel Leingang, left, and Jonelle McCoy.
PULLMAN, Wash. – As the first in her family to attend college, Washington State University AmeriCorps volunteer Rachel Leingang is familiar with the anxieties first-generation college students can experience in higher education.
Her compassion for underrepresented students made her an ideal choice for retention project coordinator in WSU’s Office of Multicultural Student Services (MSS).
Working just a few floors down from Leingang in the Compton Union Building is fellow AmeriCorps volunteer Jonelle McCoy. She recently was named coordinator of the Youth Mentor Program in the WSU Center for Civic Engagement (CCE).
Ambitious for meaningful work
McCoy and Leingang hail from different parts of the country but are equally ambitious. McCoy is a native of Lewiston, Idaho. She recently graduated summa cum laude with a degree in psychology from Lewis-Clark State College. She served as LCSC’s student body president.
Leingang is from Mandan, N.D. She recently graduated magna cum laude with a degree in mass communications and international studies from Minnesota State University-Moorhead. She served as editor-in-chief of the student newspaper.
Facing a challenging job market after graduation, both women decided service in AmeriCorps was a better alternative than working in a less meaningful job – or no job at all.
Offices request help
Leingang describes AmeriCorps as a domestic version of the Peace Corps. In 1993, U.S. President Bill Clinton signed legislation that launched AmeriCorps, a network of national service programs that engage Americans in intensive service to meet the nation’s critical needs in education, public safety, health and the environment.
Recognizing the need for additional help within their offices, staff in the CCE and MSS submitted a formal grant application last spring to the Washington Campus Compact AmeriCorps Program’s Retention Project. That resulted in establishment of the two positions held by Leingang and McCoy.
While these are non-paid positions, the grant does provide the women with a small living stipend.
“AmeriCorps is a way to boost my resume, get job experience, work directly with students and make an impact,” said Leingang.
 New perspectives enhance services
She said she is impressed by the comprehensive mentor program MSS already has in place. She has been busy getting to know the mentors in each of the ethnic student centers and talking to them about getting involved in service learning projects. She is actively promoting MSS’ tutoring program.
“Rachel is a highly skilled young professional who relates very well to students,” said Virginia Tavera-Delgado, assistant director of MSS. “She also has lots of new perspectives that can enhance our services.”
WSU students mentor youth
McCoy is involved in mentoring, but the target audience for her program is at-risk middle and high school students in Pullman and rural Whitman County. Utilizing a service-learning strategy, she is responsible for recruiting and training WSU student mentors and matching them with students in the schools who can benefit from extra guidance.
McCoy said students who can benefit the most in the Pullman School District are those from low-income or migrant families, students who are not fluent in English and those who are in foster care.
Debi Fitzgerald, assistant director in CCE, has asked McCoy to expand CCE’s literacy programming, which typically has focused more on helping students in pre-school through fifth grade.
“WSU students have a great opportunity to impact the future of at-risk youth throughout Whitman County in a meaningful way,” said Fitzgerald.
She noted that college students who engage in service-learning activities like mentoring are more likely to re-enroll and complete their degrees. She is excited to see how mentoring impacts the lives of WSU students in the program.
McCoy is equally excited to be in a position to help others succeed.
“It’s not easy, it’s not high paying, it’s not something that’s going to make me famous – attributes I see many of my own peers value – but it is meaningful and worthwhile,” she said.
Rachel Leingang, Retention Project Coordinator, Multicultural Student Services, 509-335-1773,;
Jonelle McCoy, Youth Mentor Program Coordinator, Center for Civic Engagement, 509-335-7707,;
Debi Fitzgerald, Assistant Director, Center for Civic Engagement, 509-335-0578,;
Virginia Tavera-Delgado, Assistant Director, Multicultural Student Services, 509-335-7852,

Media contact:
Steve Nakata, Manager of Communication, Student Affairs and Enrollment, 509-335-1774,