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Jumpstart Not Just For LSOE Students

Wide Variety Of Boston College Students Volunteer At Local Low-Income Preschools

Asst. News Editor

Published: Thursday, April 12, 2012

Updated: Wednesday, January 9, 2013 18:01

For the 50 volunteers, work-study students, and PULSE program students who serve as corps members for the Boston College chapter of Jumpstart, there is no better job or volunteer placement than at one of the three preschools served by the program. Jumpstart, a national early education nonprofit, pairs college students and other community members with preschool students in low-income areas. The BC chapter matches corps members to the Baldwin Early Learning center in Brighton, Associated Early Care and Education at Castle Square in the South End, and the Wang YMCA in Chinatown.

“It’s a really fun work-study job, but we’re also making such a big impact,” volunteer coordinator Emily Olson, A&S ’12, said.

Corps members commit to 300 hours of service, except for PULSE members, who commit to 200 hours. These hours consist of twice-weekly structured classroom time, which includes reading books to their partner children; leading children in songs, poems, or alphabet games; and supervising a play time that can include anything from dramatic play to art or puzzles. In addition to this structured time, corps members commit to four extra hours in a different classroom each week.

“It’s a really cool supplement to your experience, because in that setting I just get to play with the kids and see how the classroom teacher runs her classroom,” Rachel Sellstone, A&S ’15, said. “Then I can use her skills or her approaches that I see that really work in my own work with the kids.”

Though Jumpstart does seem tailor-made for Lynch School of Education students, students from every BC school participate in the program.

“I think something that a lot of people forget is that there is something in it for people who aren’t in Lynch,” Liz Blesson, LSOE ’15, said. “You build leadership skills, and the bonds that you create with these kids aren’t made just because you want to be a teacher. That’s something that I feel is appealing to whoever no matter what your major is.”

The unique work-study job and community service opportunity also appeals to many students.

 “I’m not in Lynch and don’t really want to go into education, but I’m really into community service so this was the best of both worlds,” Sellstone said.

Because Jumpstart is an AmeriCorps program, volunteer and work-study students who complete 300 hours of service also receive an education award of $1100, which they can use for school-related expenses. Students can receive this award each year that they are a part of Jumpstart.

Students who cannot commit to a full 300 hours per year, or who are not accepted as a corps member during the competitive application process, can volunteer on a more temporary basis.

“What we’re looking to do is bring in more people even as one time or two time volunteers,” Olson said. “We had a donation supply drive and helped package all the donations together to send to our preschools, we had a resource creation event where we helped create materials for our sessions, and we also had 10 or so volunteers who came in to do a Dr. Seuss day. They got to come in and work with the kids too, and even though it was just for the day it was really nice because the kids got to do something different and more fun for them.”

To this end, BC Jumpstart hopes to expand its resources, leadership team, and eventually the amount of schools it can serve.

“Now that education has become a hot-topic issue, we’re realizing as a nation that we really need to make things better,” Olson said. “I’ve seen a lot of studies that have said that early education is what works, and you need to start early so you can prepare these kids for the future, otherwise they’re just going to get left behind. So a program like Jumpstart is really important. I think we can all say that we’ve seen how it works and seen the changes that these kids have been able to make in their learning and social skills and that wouldn’t necessarily have happened if they didn’t have a program like Jumpstart.”

“There’s just so much that changes,” Marika Hyland, LSOE ’14, said. “You wouldn’t think that a five-year-old is someone you could have a good conversation with. This one girl who went to visit her grandma in Portugal was telling me all about it, and I was like, ‘You’re five!’ But we had this really great conversation about it.”

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