URI students celebrate success with their preschool partners
"Jumpstart for a Day" concludes first year of program
KINGSTON, R.I. -- April 9, 2004 -- Although it was drizzling and blustery outside the University of Rhode Island's Memorial Union, it was bright and warm inside Atrium One on Saturday, April 3.
Amid balloons and banners, children and crayons, parents and paste, the "Jumpstart for a Day" program took place. The day celebrated the successful conclusion of the first academic year of URIís participation in Jumpstart, a national non-profit organization that pairs college students with preschool children in Head Start and other early education classrooms. The program is designed to give those 3-to-5-year-olds a "jumpstart" to their education so that when they enter first grade, they are prepared to learn and succeed.
Thirty URI students were recruited and trained as part-time AmeriCorps members last fall at URIís Feinstein Center for Service Learning. Each student received either work-study funds or college credit for their participation and a $1,000 AmeriCorps scholarship. Since last fall, Jumpstart URI Corps members have spent about 300 hours working one-on-one with their partnering preschoolers, observing their partner in group settings, and planning and designing activities.
Lisa Doran and Ken Wornum alternatively talk and smile during the celebration while glancing across the room at their four-year-old daughter Cierra. Holding a book, Cierra climbs into the lap of Jumpstart URI Corps member Elvira Arias.
"Sheís learned a lot," says her mother "and sheís writing well. My name, her name and in very recognizable letters."
"Cierra loves to read," her proud dad adds.
Cierra attends CANE Child Development Center in Wakefield, one of three South County sites visited each week by the Jumpstart URI Corps members. The other sites are the South County Community Action Inc. Head Start in North Kingstown and Charlestown.
"I feel privileged to be in Jumpstart, especially in its first year at URI," said 21-year-old Arias, who is from Providence and studies psychology and hopes to practice family law some day. "I know I will always carry our experience in my heart," says Arias glancing at Cierra, her Jumpstart partner.
"I've always had a passion for helping people," says Jumpstart URI Corps member Troy Willman, who transferred to URI this year from the University of Wisconsin at River Falls after spending his sophomore year at URI on a national student exchange program. The pre-med, business finance major partnered with 3-year-old Jaedyn Peloquin at the Charlestown site. "Itís neat to see her grow. Sheís really flexible. She leads and I follow. Itís a great feeling to know that youíre making a difference in someoneís life, especially someone so young."
Jaedynís parents, Jerin Peloquin and Jim Denmark report that their daughter has thrived in the program. "Sheís learned her colors and she likes to read," says her mother. "And she loves Troy," adds her father.
Jumpstart URI Corps member Eric Stevens from Smithfield, Maine takes time out to talk about his experiences with his 4-year-old partner, Alex Marks at CANE Child Development Center in Wakefield.
"Heís an amazing kid," says the political science major who plans to go to law school to focus on child welfare issues. "Heís taught me as much as I have taught him. Heís a very creative person with a desire to tell and read stories."
Alexís parents agree: "He always has Eric stories."
Jess Sherlock, northeast regional Jumpstart program director, spoke during the celebration. "Iíve been fortunate to visit and observe at each of the new Jumpstart sites," she says. "And I can tell you thereís real magic happening."