Lauren Gallagher said she experienced a heartfelt moment a couple of weeks ago, when a young girl who didn’t speak much English showed her a picture. Gallagher, a sophomore communication disorders major, is in her second year at Jumpstart, a national non-profit program that focuses on teaching language and literature to preschool children in low-income neighborhoods.
“At the end of every [Jumpstart] session, we have ‘sharing and goodbye,’ so we have a few kids share their pictures and sing a song for them,” Gallagher said. “So after [the girl] showed me the picture, I asked her if she wanted to share it with us ... I didn’t know if she had any idea what I was talking about, so then I asked her again, and she started singing the song, and that was her way of telling me that she knew what I was talking about.”
Gallagher’s anecdote is just one of many that students might hear around Emerson in the days to come. Jumpstart officially started its Sharing Your Story campaign last week. The goal of this event is for students in the program, called Corps members, to tell their peers about insightful experiences they’ve had in the past year while helping the preschoolers.
“We’re encouraging Corps members just to talk to people in their class, talk to their friends, share their story,” Gallagher said. “It can be their whole story, or just something that happened that day, or that week.”
According to Maley Mullins, the site manager for Emerson College’s Jumpstart branch, the campaign is also focused on clarifying what the program is and why it’s beneficial. Mullins said Jumpstart hopes to further children’s future academic careers and provide them with opportunities they might not otherwise have.
“We know children need a certain skill set to be really successful in kindergarten and the rest of school,” Mullins said. “We also know that low-income preschool children don’t have access to the same number of resources or the same number of vocabulary words or the same kind of strong education that their more affluent peers do.”
Ellen Parmar, a freshman writing, literature, and publishing major and Jumpstart member, said she signed up this past fall at tables outside the dining hall. She became interested in the program because of her desire to write children’s books.
“I like to keep in touch with what children need to learn and what the purpose of literature is for them,” Parmar said. “I believe there is a purpose in children’s literature that really helps them and can benefit them a lot.”
Mullins said she hoped hearing members’ stories would encourage students to seek out Jumpstart as an extracurricular option for next year. Some of the publicity methods include tabling outside the dining hall, having “Red Shirt Days” when members wear their Jumpstart T-shirts around campus, and social media campaigns.
Sharing Your Story starts around the time when the program’s recruitment begins for the fall. According to Mullins, Jumpstart gets about 80 applicants for 50 positions each year. While Mullins said it filled 48 out of 50 spots this year, some students joined as late as February because many couldn’t fulfill the necessary time commitment. As a result, she said receiving as many applications as early as possible is important. Jumpstart also starts the awareness campaign during registration week, so that those who are interested can plan their schedules accordingly.
According to Mullins, Corps members go into schools twice a week for two hours. At these sessions, they read a storybook, then run activities based on that story to increase vocabulary and alphabet knowledge. The volunteers also work with 2-3 children on a more personal basis and spend time planning for sessions and attending meetings.
“They definitely don’t just go in on the fly and just read with kids,” Mullins said. “There’s a lot of prep work and intentionality. Students work really hard to make their lessons successful.”
Besides the benefits of leading an impactful session, logging more hours has other perks for members. Mullins said Jumpstart is technically part of AmeriCorps, which is a national program that partners with various community groups. Americorps requires a 300-hour time commitment every year, which Mullins said translates to roughly 12-15 hours a week.
If a Jumpstart Corps member reaches the time requirement, they are eligible for an AmeriCorps scholarship, worth around $1,100, to put toward their education, Mullins said.
Group members are not paid, but the program can count as a work study. Jumpstart also does not offer non-tuition credit to students. However, Mullins said the group is working on making the option for credit available in the future.
Mullins said she thinks Sharing Your Story week has the potential to convince students to join, regardless of whether or not they get non-tuition credit.
“I think that in hearing what the Corps members’ experience was like,” she said, “I’m hoping people will say ‘I know that people are doing really good things with Jumpstart. This is something I want to try too.’ ”
Anna Buckley, Deputy Lifesty Editor and a Corps member in Jumpstart, did not edit this article.