Tuesday, April 19, 2016

It is so hard to sum up how my year of service has been. But, in an effort to explain it, I’ll compare it to something I know well: food. My Jumpstart experience has been like a delicious chipotle burrito.
            The first part of my burrito is the tortilla, the kids. Just as without a tortilla, a burrito cannot exist, without kids, Jumpstart cannot exist. They are the whole reason I participated in Jumpstart. They were my motivation and my joy.
Next, we add rice to the burrito. The rice is a staple in any delicious burrito and my team was a staple to my service with Jumpstart. They held me accountable and pushed me to bring my best self to Jumpstart sessions. Rice can really make or break a burrito, and I was lucky to have a zesty and wonderful team to support me this year.
The beans are the part of the burrito that add that good protein and heartiness that fills you up. Morgan, the Jumpstart site manager, is like the beans of the burrito because she really completed the experience. She is what really gave my experience in Jumpstart fulfilling and satisfying.
The next part of my Jumpstart burrito is the salsa. The teachers and helpers in my classroom are the salsa, because they are necessary and add some nice spice and flavor. Without the support of the teachers, this experience would have been bland and ineffective. They added a delightful little kick to my Jumpstart experience, just as salsa adds some delicious flavor to a burrito.
The final touch of my burrito is the lettuce, which I will compare to the early mornings. Let’s be honest, nobody really wants lettuce on their burrito. What’s the point? Even though the lettuce is not very exciting, it is still part of the experience and adds to the overall flavor. As hard as it was on some days to get up and deal with the metro during rush hour, that is what made Jumpstart Jumpstart.

All of these ingredients mixed together made a wonderful burrito that was both enjoyable and satisfying. Each part of the burrito was necessary and added to the overall flavor. This year in Jumpstart has left me feeling the same way. I am fulfilled and so glad I got to have the experience of participating in Jumpstart.
-Julia Weigel

Friday, April 8, 2016

Making Adjustments in the Classroom, Personalized Approaches

Throughout the year there have been multiple cases where my team and I have had to find creative solutions to problems that arise. One case stands out to me in particular. It was a rainy day and most of our children were frustrated and restless from not being able to go outside for recess earlier on in the day. Once we got the group settled into our Jumpstart reading group assignments, the restlessness seemed wear off a bit. However, by center time one girl in particular became disinterested and frustrated. She was at the writing center and I tried to encourage her to create her own story. I should also mention that it was spirit week for our students, and she was dressed in a ballerina tutu. Despite my encouragement she refused to participate in writing and said that she did not want to move to another center. While my other children were working to develop their own stories, I took five minutes to make a personalized book for her. On the cover I drew a picture of a ballerina that wore a similar tutu to the one that she had on. I wrote her name on the cover and entitled the book her “special ballerina book.” Slowly but surely she regained interest in the activity. I gave her the book and told her that she should write out stories and illustrations to tell her ballerina’s story. She began to smile and at last picked up a crayon and began to write her own story and draw her own pictures within the book. It five minutes to implement a personalized approach that dramatically refocused my student’s engagement in the center time activities. Ultimately, she was able to receive the proper enrichment during center time. I learned that sometimes it takes a personalized approach to get your students engaged in the session curriculum, and sometimes all they need is a little cheering up from you. 

-Maureen Smith

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

The end of Jumpstart is approaching fast, as is the end of my freshman year. This year has been quite an experience, with a lot of ups and downs. My team and the team working with us hit quite a few rough patches, with many people leaving, including our team leaders. However, these bumps along the road have actually made us stronger. We bonded and became closer, which allowed us to set up a more unified front for the students. That’s why we’re doing Jumpstart, after all. The children are the most important part. Being able to see them improving throughout our time with them has been the most rewarding thing about Jumpstart. Sure, gaining skills as an educator has been good, and the grant is a nice bonus, but seeing how much the children grew and started to love learning is the best part. Overall, Jumpstart has been a great experience, and I’m glad I decided to do it. While it made my freshman year quite busy, it also made it quite fulfilling.

-Melissa Galvin

Monday, April 4, 2016

During my third time arriving at my school for our Jumpstart session, a little girl ran up to me as she was leaving school. She was not one of my reading group students and she looked like she was in third or fourth grade. She came up to me and confidently said “Excuse me miss, what is college like?” I was surprised by her confidence and genuine interest in learning about college. I looked at her and said “It’s my first year in college, and it’s amazing but it’s also a lot of work, keep working hard now and some day you’ll be prepared to conquer it.” She smiled and told me that she would work hard. When beginning my service as as Jumpstart corp member I had no idea that any of my students or students at the school would be thinking about college, let alone be interested in asking me about it. However, after that encounter I realized that the impact of my presence within the school goes beyond the assistance and curriculum that I provide within my preschool classroom. Other children within the school community see us as role models. They are fascinated because we are older, accomplished students who were once their age. They see us as adults who have overcame everything that they will someday go through in school. As Jumpstart Corp Members we inspire every child we come in contact with, one way or another. While the little girl who spoke to me may not remember our conversation when she gets older, the encouragement that I provided when she asked me that question will hopefully flourish within her. It will help her to stay focused, to set goals, and to value her experiences within grade school. As for my team and I, the encounter allowed us to put our service into perspective. We realized our overall commitment to acting as role models and our duty to pay it forward by serving within the D.C. community.

-Maureen Smith 
As the end of this Jumpstart term comes to a close, I have been reflecting on my experience as a first time corps member. My first exposure to Americorps was for two weeks while I visited my cousin who was completing a term in Colorado. From the outside looking in, the program seemed amazing. You do service for a period of time, gain a valuable experience, and meet amazing people. I knew that this was something I would want to do. Upon coming to American University for undergrad, I was searching for a sense of community and thought that I might be able to find this with Jumpstart.

Though I joined a semester late, I was immediately accepted by my amazing team and team leader. We all pull our weight, help each other out, and have so much fun. When one of us is sick, needs help, or is having a tough day, the other 3 pick up the slack and we move together as a team. My team is my favorite part of Jumpstart, aside from time in the classroom with the kids - by far the highlight of my weeks. I will really miss them and my school next semester. My goal for these last few weeks is to really enjoy the little things: making the kids laugh, seeing their improvements, and spending time together.

-Lily Eagan

Friday, February 12, 2016

When I started Jumpstart, I did not know what to expect. I grew up helping my mom in her classroom of first graders, and I had babysat many time before, but Jumpstart sounded like nothing I had ever experienced before. All of the children I have worked with before already had general knowledge of the alphabet, even if it was very rudimentary. Working with preschoolers, especially 3 year-olds, is quite the change of pace. Now most of these children can only pick out the letters in their names, and even then they have a hard time differentiating between letters that look similar, like y and g.
I love it. I am an Education major (albeit, a Secondary Education major with a focus on 9th-12th grade), and I think that is why I love seeing the changes in the children. The ones who could not pick their names out before can now recognize multiple letters in their names, and point out who else has those letters in their names. Children who did not want to participate in Read to Reconstruct have begun to answer questions about the books and can recall events from their own volition. I can tell that Jumpstart has helped the children tremendously, and I love that. I love knowing that I helped foster a love of learning in a new generation.

Jumpstart has allowed me to not only help children grow, but to help myself grow. I am now more confident in my ability to work with children of all ages, and to be able to help the children learn. I also gained valuable skills, like being able to work as part of a team and being able to manage my time properly. I am so glad that I decided to join Jumpstart at the beginning of the year. It has shaped me into a better person.

-Melissa Galvin

Monday, February 8, 2016

One Step Closer

Coming back to Jumpstart after almost two months of not going to Cedar Tree Academy has reminded me of what I was missing out over winter break. As soon as I set foot in the classroom, I was ready for another semester of Jumpstart. As our winter break was prolonged due to snow days, I was eager to get back in the routine of things again. Walking into the room, I instantly saw the smiles on all of the children’s faces. They waited patiently on the carpet as my team and I got our books ready to read. As I read the names of the students in my group, I watched as each of them came to the table I was sitting at and take a seat. Each and every student was overwhelmed that Jumpstart was back. 

Not only have I learned so much from Jumpstart this past semester, but I have also grown as a person. I have learned patience, classroom management skills, and have learned that this is what I want to do when I am older. I want to help children excel in the classroom and reach their full potential. I would love to walk into my classroom everyday and see children who are willing to learn. After going through session the first day back after winter break, I noticed how much the students have grown. Students who never gave answers to my questions are beginning to talk, and students are beginning to ask questions back to me to check their understanding. Although these may seem small, they are giant steps forward in the right direction. I am excited to see what this semester has in store for us and I look forward to making many more advancements.

-Christine Mazzocchi