Jumpstart Kicks Off the Spring Semester

Caleb Nelson

Approximately 60 students from UMB began another semester with Jumpstart last week-tutoring children from low income families at Boston area preschools. The evident impact of the program encourages participants.

“Children absorb so much at a young age. It is so satisfying to see a child figuring out what language is,” said Amy Southers, the team leader for the Jumpstart program at the Yawkey Preschool in Dorchester. “But it does take a lot of patience.”

Southers has been involved in a number of AmeriCorps programs including City Year, Heads Up, and Jumpstart. She would like to council kids after she graduates from UMB in the spring, and said Jumpstart has helped her prepare for her future career. She sees a benefit in the program even for people not interested in getting into the education field.

“I think that everyone can learn something from this program whether it is just patience or a deeper understanding of human behavior.”

Jumpstart Corps Members are partnered with one child, who they work with through the school year. Stephanie Farmer, the director of the Jumpstart Program at UMass, said that this individual attention is exactly what a child needs to grow: a safe environment to learn, free from judgment and filled with positive affirmations.

The mission of Jumpstart is to offer children in low income neighborhoods opportunities to develop the language, literacy and social skills needed to succeed in school.

“Our curriculum scaffolds to develop the basic key skills needed for emergent reading such as alphabet knowledge, phonetic awareness, vocabulary expansion, rhyme awareness, reading comprehension, and the concept of print.”

Though the commitment is substantial for students-10-12 hours-Farmer explained, it is absolutely necessary and rewarding to everyone involved. It allows students to get an understanding of the poverty cycle and the importance of early education.

“The secret to our success is harnessing the passion and commitment of university students who share an interest in civic responsibility and understanding of the importance of early education…Many of our members go on to become educators and policy makers,” said Farmer.

Some UMB students have seen the value of Jumpstart’s curriculum in extensions beyond the preschool classroom.

“I used it to help my mother learn to read,” Marian Villatoro, a UMB Jumpstart Corps Member, said. “She moved to the US from El Salvador twenty years ago, has been through a number of ESOL classes; none of them helped her with her reading. I used the vocabulary and picture books from Jumpstart with her, and the impact was huge.”

Jumpstart’s curriculum offers invaluable language skills according to Villatoro. She plans to return next year-possibly as a Team Leader, but certainly as a Corps Member. Hiring for next year’s Jumpstart sessions begins in May.

“Try it. It will change your life,” said Villatoro.