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Tufts Jumpstart Earns National Recognition

Friday, May 27, 2016

The organization's CEO visited Tufts, our Jumpstart leader received an award, and one of our students spoke at the group's national gala.


Jumpstart is a national early education organization that recruits and trains college students and community members to serve preschool children in low-income neighborhoods. Its curriculum helps children develop the language and literacy skills they need to be ready for kindergarten, setting them on a path to close the achievement gap before it is too late. In the 2014-2015 academic year, Jumpstart served 11,450 children nationwide by working with 76 university and community partners around the country.

Tufts University is one of the oldest Jumpstart university partnerships. Tufts students were members of the Boston pilot corps in 1993—only a year after Jumpstart was created. Since then, the partnership has only grown; Tisch College is home to a full-time Jumpstart coordinator who recruits up to 50 Jumbos each year to serve nearly 150 students in Boston and Somerville-area preschools.

In recognition of that robust partnership, Tufts staff and students have recently been recognized by Jumpstart’s national leadership for its innovative programming and for the passion and commitment of those striving to improve education for all.

Jumpstart CEO Visits Tufts Program

This spring, Jumpstart CEO Naila Bolus and Tufts University Provost David Harris visited one of the Tufts University Jumpstart teams to recognize their outstanding work at the Chinese Church Head Start in Chinatown, Boston. This new partnerships serves almost exclusively Chinese-speaking students—a pressing need in Tufts’ host community of Chinatown.

In order to prepare students to work with in this unique community, two Tufts Jumpstart corps members designed and implemented a workshop series around the issues facing Chinatown. The workshops supported Jumpstart’s goal of becoming more culturally proficient and engaged in the community; students discussed the history of oppression of Chinese immigrants and Asian-Americans, and they examined best practices for working with children and families of different cultures in a school setting. Mary Anton-Oldenberg, Jumpstart’s service-learning course professor and principal of Bowman Elementary School, and Mahlet Meshesha, a Jumpstart alum, were integral resources to the Jumpstart team in building cultural sensitivity and education programs in the schools.

Tisch College Jumpstart Leader Honored with Values Award

Key to these innovative efforts has been Darby Sanders, the Tufts Jumpstart Site Manager at Tisch College. This past February, Darby was awarded the Jumpstart Values Award, a national honor given to staff members exemplify Jumpstart’s values in their work. The award was a tribute to Darby’s leadership and effective stewardship of the Tufts Jumpstart program, and she was especially recognized for creating a winter training institute that was held at Tufts University with the Emerson Jumpstart corps. The Institute included sessions featuring members from the different communities Jumpstart serves, as well as breakout sessions for students to pursue their individual professional development interests.

“This year Tara Jacobson, the Emerson College Jumpstart Site Manager, and I were both new to our roles and wanted to collaborate on our fall and winter institutes,” says Darby. “Together we were able to pursue different avenues and get creative in how we planned the trainings. The Tufts and Emerson Jumpstart programs have a wonderful partnership and we look forward to joining with them again next year.”

In addition, Darby was asked to speak to other Jumpstart staff members about some of the unique things that her corps has accomplished this year at Tufts, including the student-led workshop series on Chinatown.

Tufts Corps Member Delivers Keynote Speech at Annual Jumpstart Gala

Last month, one of Darby’s students recently shared her Jumpstart story with an even bigger audience at the annual Scribbles to Novels gala, a unique fundraising event that celebrates the power of the written word. Each year, a speech contest is held to select who will deliver the gala’s keynote address. Two of the finalists were Tufts Jumpstart corps members, Ailish Dougherty and Bethany Kirby, both first-years who worked closely together as co-team leaders at the Elizabeth Peabody House preschool site. Both are close friends and incredibly passionate about Jumpstart; Bethany ultimately won the competition, beating out finalists from other universities across the region.

Bethany initially joined Jumpstart because she understood firsthand the real impact that the Kindergarten achievement gap can have on a student’s long-term educational success. “As a low income student who feels vastly unprepared for my own education, I saw Jumpstart as a way to make a difference in the lives of children who remind me of four-year-old me,” says Bethany. The keynote speech she delivered at the gala focused on the struggles she faced adjusting to college, and how the children she works with through the Jumpstart program are helping her overcome those challenges.

“On top of teaching and childcare skills, Jumpstart has taught me a plethora of life skills: leadership, kindness, compassion, and teamwork,” she said. “It’s been difficult, but it’s taught me discipline and responsibility, and most importantly, Jumpstart taught me that love is much more powerful than anger will ever be.”