By Dakota Damschroder
All children have the capacity for greatness. Sometimes all they need is a jumpstart.
Since 1996, Jumpstart has partnered with AmeriCorps to help young children in underserved communities receive the education they deserve. Emerson students have the unique chance to be a part of that effort. Emerson’s Jumpstart chapter trains students to serve in classrooms in low-income neighborhoods of Boston to help prepare preschool-aged children for educational success.
“There’s this huge education gap that stops people from graduating high school and going to college,” says second-year Corps member Kaylee Anzick (Writing, Literature, and Publishing, ’17). “Jumpstart is a program that tries to lessen that gap, and I respect that mission and want to do what I can to help.”
This year, Jumpstart has 46 Corps members and Team Leaders who work within seven classrooms in three schools: College Bound Dorchester, South Boston Neighborhood House, and Project Hope Community Center. Each classroom has a Jumpstart team to guide a two-hour session designed to enhance reading, writing, and communication skills. The Corps members each have two or three partner-children to ensure that all children are getting the focused attention they need to develop.
During Jumpstart sessions, a Team Leader guides the entire classroom through a series of activities called “circle time,” when everyone participates in a sing-along or a poetry reading. During “center time,” children cycle through established stations of activities including reading, writing, dramatic play, puzzles, and art or science. This time allows each Corps members to devote attention to a partner child.
“My first year I had an ‘Aha!’ moment,” said Silvia Stantcheva (Communications Disorders, ’15), a second-year Team Leader. “I was working with my partner child, who didn’t seem to like me. But I was sick one day, and the next session she was like, ‘Where were you, Silvia? I learned how to write my J’s and you weren’t here!’ I saw that it did matter if I was there or not.”
These are the kinds of experiences Maley Mullin, Emerson’s onsite manager for Jumpstart, hopes her Corps members have.
“It’s not all about having fun with children,” she said. “It’s about being thoughtful about implementing our domains and skills.” Mullin has faith in all of her students. “I think Emerson students are known for working really hard and being really dedicated to what they commit to. I see that, especially in the classroom.”
Jumpstart has a powerful impact on the Corps members as well as the children they serve. The program prompted Stantcheva to change her major from Writing, Literature, and Publishing to Communications Disorders, to cultivate skills she didn’t realize she could develop, and to learn things she didn’t know.
“I found I could lead a team,” she said.
“The best part is knowing that you’re a part of something bigger than yourself,” said Stantcheva. “No matter how tired or frustrated you may get, it always ends up being okay because this is for the kids, and that keeps you going.”
Housed in The Office of Service Learning and Community Action, Jumpstart is a co-curricular program that is a great option for students looking for a high level of commitment in their community service. Students can participate in Jumpstart to earn their federal work study award, or they can volunteer. Jumpstart participants each serve 300 hours in order to complete the Americorps commitment, after which time they receive an Americorps Education Award of almost $1,200 in recognition of their service. Students may also select non-Americorps 200-hour slots designed for international students or for especially busy students.
Jumpstart is now accepting applications for the Fall 2015 semester. Those interested can contact Mullin at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit her in Walker 1016. They can also apply online at https://application.jstart.org.