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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Program Gives Students Jump Start

Twenty-four year old Meghan Schumacher, a Minnesota native, first heard of the JumpStart program while working as an AmeriCorps VISTA volunteer.

Schumacher recruits, trains, and monitors the UMass Boston corps members who work one-on-one with Boston area low income preschoolers throughout the academic year. During that time, she explains, “JumpStart corps members will work up to 300 hours of service supporting preschoolers in language, literacy, and social development skills.” Upon completing the JumpStart program, members receive an educational award of $1,250.

After undergoing 40 hours of training during the fall semester, the new recruits go to visit their preschool sites twice a week, in addition to spending extra hours in the classroom. Most of the JumpStart sites are located within a Head Start program at private schools throughout inner city Boston.

Corps members work in teams, each with a team leader, to plan their curriculums and develop ways to support their kids’ chances of catching up with their peers to succeed in preschool and eventually kindergarten. This year, there are 44 members divided into 4 teams. Since August 2003, Schumacher has managed UMass Boston’s JumpStart program. The non-profit Jump Start program has trained thousands of college students on 50 campuses to mentor disadvantaged preschool children in over 23 states since its inception in 1993.

“In addition to supporting their designated preschooler in individual and group activities, the corps members will also get a chance to facilitate and assist teachers in a larger classroom setting,” Schumacher explains.

When asked her overall impression of this year’s JumpStart members, she enthusiastically replies how excited and impressed she is with the group. “You never really know what kind of group you’re going to get at UMB because we don’t offer an early childhood education degree program,” Schumacher points out, “since early childhood education isn’t an option here, you end up getting a broad range of interested students who sign-up for various reasons, which makes for a very diverse group.”

UMB students can also opt to join JumpStart’s summer program, in which members work 35 hours a week as-sisting teachers, planning curriculum and organizing field trips. One of the great advantages of working in the summer program is that students who plan on entering a childhood education career in the state can gain their official OCCS teaching certification.

Yet working in JumpStart can become very challenging at times. One of Schumacher’s greatest challenges, she says, has been turning away ineligible students who show genuine interest and motivation about JumpStart because they do not have work-study. She cites one of the biggest challenges for the student members, is often juggling their time efficiently between JumpStart service requirements, academics, family obligations, and off campus jobs. Despite these challenges however, the overall percentage of UMB students who complete the program has been over 80% in the past two years.

Students who want to apply or are interested in learning more about JumpStart should contact Meghan at: 287-7944, [email protected] or visit Student Life on the third floor of the Campus Center.