Students help jump start children’s educations, lives

Students help jump start children’s educations, lives

By Megan Jicha

Children eagerly running into classrooms, never wanting to miss school, actively participating in class and succeeding in their academics: this is the goal of the non-profit organization Jumpstart.

“‘Working toward the day every child in America enters school prepared to succeed,’ is our motto,” said Christina Lavorna, a Jumpstart team leader.

Jumpstart members volunteer at local pre-school centers, like Haynes Early Education Center, NICE preschool and the Dimock Community Health Center for three hours a day, twice a week for an entire school year.

Jumpstart members are assigned one pre-schooler to work with for the entire year, ensuring each young student receives the attention they need.

Volunteer sessions involve specific activities: one-to-one reading, Circle time or choice time.

One-to-one reading gives the pre-schoolers a chance to focus on reading and their personal struggles with literacy using the Dialogic reading method, which includes discussion of the book. Circle time allows the entire site to spend time together reading, singing or engaging in other educational activities. Choice time is when the pre-schoolers get to choose what they want to do with their Jumpstart partners.

“We encourage [the kids to choose] activities that require reading or writing, even if it’s smearing shaving cream all over a table and writing letters or their names in it with their fingers,” said Ariel Anderson, a Jumpstart team member.

Although Jumpstart focuses on helping pre-school partners develop literacy and language skills, members hope the children take even more from the program.

“I hope they get a strong sense of self, and understand that they do have the power and the choice to do whatever it is they want,” said Chelsey Varani, a Jumpstart team leader. “I hope they take away a desire to learn more and learn to enjoy reading since books open so many doors for kids today.”

Long-term results are the Jumpstart members’ main wish for the pre-schoolers.

“I also hope that they will grow into confident, independent people, who know that their choices matter to adults and that they can do anything they put their minds to,” Lavorna said.

Beyond volunteering six hours a week at their sites, Jumpstart members are expected to complete four to five hours of classroom assistance time, where they play with the children and assist the teachers in whatever way possible.

“This additional time helps members to further bond with the kids and strengthen relationships with school staff members,” Lavorna said.

Many Jumpstart team members stayed in Boston for spring break to continue working with the children and staff through classroom assistance time.

Jumpstart members also reach out beyond their sites.

“We are very involved in the community, and take on a couple community service projects each school year, as well as fund-raising and training,” Varani said.

An example service project was their participation in the Boston Breast Cancer walk this past fall, Anderson said.

However, working with the kids is many of the Jumpstart members’ favorite aspect of the program.

“Walking into the pre-school and getting bombarded by the kids [is the best part],” Anderson said. “There’s never a dull day.”

Lavorna said she agreed that walking into the site to all the children is in itself a rewarding experience.

“It is just truly amazing to see the looks on the children’s faces when I enter the classroom, with them all running toward me, calling my name or Jumpstart,” Lavorna said. “When they seek me out to play with or sit next to, and all fight to climb into my lap, I can’t help but to feel extremely loved and appreciated. I think everyone would benefit from a dose of that special attention from children each day.”

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