In the early weeks of the fall semester at California State University, Dominguez Hills students are not just buying textbooks and reading syllabuses for their new classes. Students from a wide variety of majors are preparing to serve 300 hours over the course of the 2010-11 academic year as Jumpstart Corps members. The students will be working to ensure that preschoolers in Carson and Compton receive mentoring and encouragement that will propel them to do well in school and to begin to think of themselves as college-bound.
Jumpstart, a nonprofit focused on early childhood education, addresses school readiness among preschool children in low-income communities. The 30 members of the newly established Jumpstart Los Angeles County at CSU Dominguez Hills will be paired with preschoolers at Rainbow Child Development Center and Immanuel Children Development Center in Compton for twice-weekly sessions that will include helping the children with basic language and math skills, reading, and assisting teachers. The corps will also be working with children in the Child Development Center at CSU Dominguez Hills.
CSU Dominguez Hills joins a network of 62 institutions dedicated to addressing the needs of America’s preschool population through partnerships with Jumpstart. Cheryl McKnight, director of the Center for Service Learning, Internship, and Civic Engagement (SLICE) says, “We are proud to join Jumpstart in this critically important work. It strengthens our commitment to the community and gives our students the chance to enrich their academic experience by giving back to their community in a meaningful way.”
Jumpstart selects colleges and universities to join its higher education network using a rigorous application process that assesses the institution’s goals, dedication to early childhood education, and previous community service projects.
The Jumpstart curriculum is results-driven and draws on research in early childhood education, stressing the development of language and literacy skills. Children involved in the program are evaluated at the beginning, middle, and again at the end of the school year. Results from these evaluations demonstrate that children in Jumpstart tend to make greater advances in the evaluated areas than their non-participant peers.
Sergio Pineda, Jumpstart site manager at CSU Dominguez Hills, says that he is recruiting corps members who don’t necessarily have a lot of experience working with children, but who sincerely want to help them through a structured curriculum that prepares children for school and ultimately college, with a focus on literacy, mathematics, and building their confidence and self-esteem.
“We’re not going to just be hanging out with the kids,” says Pineda. “We have a mission, and that mission is to have these kids reading by the time they get to kindergarten. I’m looking for people who are very dynamic, very passionate about it, and are excellent storytellers.”
Pineda, who was born in Guatemala and arrived in the United States as a small child, says that one of his goals is to show the children that there are “adults who care, role models in the community who have gone through what they’ve gone through.”
“I came to the U.S. and didn’t speak a word of English,” he says. “I didn’t get the guidance, I didn’t get the help. One of my goals now is to give back and to [present] these literacy programs that could prevent so many other things. When you think about it, [Jumpstart is] like a form of gang prevention. I think it’s so much more than just reading a book. A lot of our [corps] are from the Carson and Compton areas, so it’s a way to show [the children] that they too could end up as successful people.”
Sheree Frison, a freshman majoring in political science, says that because she never had access to a program like Jumpstart as a child, she looks forward to serving as a corps member after her experience teaching students at Clyde Woodworth Elementary School in Inglewood how to read and write.
“It was a joy to go in and help the children, because when I was young, it took me awhile to learn how to write and read,” she says. “I think it’s a privilege to help out the children and give back to the community because I didn’t get that.”
Jumpstart also provides professional development for CSU Dominguez Hills students. Lizette Bernal, a senior majoring in history, is the corps’ volunteer coordinator. As she plans to teach history at the college level, she says that any experience working in the community is useful as well as gratifying.
“You want to see people succeed who don’t… have access to great preschools or Headstarts,” she says. “I’ve spoken to some kindergarten teachers and they say it’s really sad that some kids go in and don’t even know how to hold a pencil. It’s really sad that not everyone can get the same attention, so I really hope that Jumpstart makes a difference.”
Jasmone Riggins, a freshman majoring in human services, agrees.
“I always knew I wanted to help people, since I was little,” she says. “I read up on [human services] and decided I wanted to major in it. Then I came across Jumpstart and it sounded like something I really wanted to [do] to help people.”
Jumpstart will utilize the university’s Federal Work-Study (FWS) dollars to pay students for their service, enabling them to augment their income while still in school and to finance their education by performing valuable community service. In addition, Jumpstart Corps members who are not receiving FWS at this time may earn a $1,100 AmeriCorps education award upon completing 300 hours of service to pay for tuition, loans, or other related expenses.
Jumpstart is now recruiting students at CSU Dominguez Hills to serve 300 hours over the 2010-2011 academic year. For more information, click here or contact Pineda at (310) 243-2438.