Academics in Action

MAKING AN IMPACT:
Jumpstart Brings Whittier Students Opportunities to
Work With Children of Diverse Communities

FLASHCARDS, ALPHABET LETTERS, PAINTING, AND SMILES light up the classrooms as instructor and children engage in learning.  The class leaders – Whittier undergraduates who are considering a career as in education -- proudly wear Jumpstart on their shirts.  For these would-be teachers, also known as Jumpstart Corp members, this program provides a unique experience to impact children by helping them to improve language and learning skills.

Jumpstart is a nationwide program dedicated to helping children develop skills in reading and language skills.  However, many children participants come from low-income communities and do not have access to the educational resources necessary to help close the literacy gap.  Professor of Education,Holly Lopez and her Jumpstart Corp members strive to counter the obstacles faced by many of their students and give them the opportunity to succeed.

Each fall, Jumpstart coordinator Lopez teaches “Working with Children in Diverse Communities.” The course has a service-learning component in which Whittier students work as teachers in a local pre-school for two hours, twice a week throughout the semester. 

“They go into the same classroom over the course of the year,” explains Lopez.  “They work with a small group of children and they get to see those children progress from October all the way to May.  Once they are in the course, they have the option of becoming an AmeriCorps member or they could do the course just for one semester, but most people choose to do it for a whole year in which they become Jumpstart Corp members.” 

In addition to the many learning benefits, students who participate in Jumpstart receive stipend awards that can be used on tuition expenses.  However, the experience goes much farther than just money. 

 “Jumpstart has made me realize the amount of patience I have and that I am not scared to learn from someone who is younger than me,” said Jumpstart Corp member Laniesha Ross. “The program has also taught me how to run a classroom and not to be afraid to sing a song in a silly voice or do a short dance to make the children laugh. It opened me up—made me less concerned about what people thought and more concerned on the well beings of the children.”

 “I think being a mentor to new teachers is really a gift,” said Lopez about the undergraduate students she oversees.  “It’s really exciting to help them and watch them see these children progress their language and literacy.  I’ve had people say to me: ‘Jumpstart changed my life; I’m going to be a teacher now.’ And that is part of what Jumpstart aims to do.” 

Students ready to make a difference in these children’s lives can begin building their education paths by visiting http://www.jstart.org or emailing Holly Lopez at hlopezst@whittier.edu.