By Megan Eldholm
Jumpstart is a national literacy program for preschoolers who have fallen behind with their vocabulary and language skills. Its mission is to promote quality early learning and ensure that every child in America enters kindergarten prepared to succeed. Over 45,000 college students and community volunteers across the country help nearly 100,000 children every year. A milestone occurred in 2013 when Jumpstart broke the world reading record by reading with 2,462,860 children and adults.
The Jumpstart program at Eastern is based at the Center for Community Engagement (CCE).
Site Manager Meaghan Penrod has experience with teaching in several different schools and she has direct knowledge of the personal impacts on students when educational resources are limited. Children from low-income neighborhoods typically enter kindergarten 60% behind their peers from more affluent neighborhoods.
Eastern students who join Jumpstart receive valuable training and experience to help them prepare for careers in education. They have two service level options—for 200 or 300 hours during the school year. At the 300-hour level members would become part of AmeriCorps and receive a Segal AmeriCorps Education Award of $1225 at the end of the year. At both levels students use their time to implement lesson plans, prepare class materials, interact with teachers and families, and work with their peers. Students form a special bond with the children they work with and see how much they grow in the course of one year—and the huge difference that Jumpstart
makes in their learning process.
Jumpstart serves children but it also provides an important tool for academic and career planning. In a national program evaluation 96% of members agreed their experience enabled them to build leadership and team building skills. Many decided to change major after their Jumpstart experience. Some discovered they want to work with children as a lifelong path to meaningful and rewarding work.
Meaghan is in her first year at Jumpstart/Eastern and she is pleased with how the program is going. After only two weeks some of the kids have already learned to write their name. She believes it is critical to target language, literacy and social emotion skills. Through reading books, having conversations and playing with the kids, students share alphabet knowledge, phonemic understanding and rhyme awareness. Meaghan summed up the spirit of the program in this way, “There’s no reason that a child should be behind his whole academic career because of where he was born.” If you would like more information or want to join this effort go to these two websites: http://www.easternct.edu/cce/americorps/ and also www.jstart.org