It’s 5:15 pm and a group of students walk into the Service Learning office. They have their hands full—mostly with posters, some artwork, and everyone has a meeting agenda.
“Okay, let’s hear about the pluses and deltas from session today,” Meg Harwood says. She is the Team Leader for a Jumpstart team at Labouré Center in South Boston. The team, consisting of students from Visual Media Arts, Communication Sciences and Disorders, Journalism, Communication Studies, and Writing, Literature, and Publishing work together to implement Jumpstart sessions two afternoons as week in a preschool classroom. Jumpstart is an early education program designed to help preschool children the language, literacy, and social skills they need to be successful in school.
I sit and listen at my desk as the team reviews the curriculum and plans activities for their classroom of four-year olds. They discuss strategies to scaffold activities and support children at various developmental levels, they review the vocabulary words they will be introducing during the dialogic reading, and they brainstorm ways to increase the environmental print by bringing a prediction chart into the science center.
Before the meeting ends, the team turns their attention on one child. Alexia is an English Language Learner and she rarely speaks in school. Using a variety of resources, the team develops an action plan to help support Alexia and her English Language Development. Team members have different responsibilities. Ruben Raskin, who reads with Alexia, will translate all of the key vocabulary words from the storybook into Spanish. Rebecca Saylor will sit next to Alexia during circle time and encourage her to whisper responses to circle time games. Aundria Martinez will be ready to engage Alexia when she comes to Dramatic Play.
As the meeting progresses, the conversation sounds more and more like curriculum meeting between seasoned teachers rather than a group of student volunteers. Since the beginning of their term in October, the Jumpstart Corps members have become knowledgeable and dedicated professionals.
Serving a 300 hour AmeriCorps term is not an easy commitment for busy Emersonians to make. Partnering with community organizations and working with energetic preschoolers can present a range of challenges. Ellis Fiori and his team of Corps members travel 40 minutes each way to serve at Dorchester Place Preschool. The teams at South Boston Neighborhood House and Little House Preschool plan for 2 hours each week in crowded basements. Corps members go to session when they are sick, when they have midterms, and when they have a lengthy list of other commitments. As I reflect on this meeting and as I watch Jumpstart Corps members in Jumpstart sessions, I am impressed at the students’ commitment to their community and the level of professionalism the display all year.
Next fall, we will see some of these same Emerson students reenrolling in Jumpstart and others will choose to dedicate their time to new endeavors on campus. Beyond Emerson, a handful may go into education while the rest will become leaders in the fields they study. Regardless of where their future takes them, I hope the Corps members remember this year and are proud of all they have achieved.
Jumpstart is recruiting Corps members for the 2011-2012 academic year. Applications are available online at www.jstart.org/apply. For more information, follow us on Twitter @ECJumpstart or email Molly Juhlin, Jumpstart Site Manager at firstname.lastname@example.org.