Thursday, February 4, 2016


Team Imagination finished one whole session together and I could not be more proud and astonished at how well the team works together. After my experience with a small team fall semester, I felt very grateful to have a larger team, yet the anticipation of fully taking on the role as a team leader was intimidating. I had shared my leadership with a fellow team leader and I think it was a very good preparatory leeway for me to take on a whole group this semester, I think I would have had a much more difficult time if I had not shared my responsibilities with another last semester given the situation. Coming back to Cedar Tree Academy with four new members by my side, I could not have been more excited. Snow days and Corps Members unfamiliar with Jumpstart made me feel a little nervous at first; however the extra time gave me the opportunity to allocate team planning meetings in which I was able to fully go over Session. The best part about being a team leader is seeing the work I did last year as a Corps Member being undertaken by my new team. I had one of the best experiences last year as a Corps Member and made two of my best friends at college through joining the program. My team leader from last year is my inspiration in Jumpstart; she conducted our team efficiently and really coordinated a bond that I will never forget.

            Although a late start into Jumpstart with new members makes me doubt my ability to create as strong of a team bonding experience as I had myself, I have different goals. I have a personal goal to help my team reach 300 hours each and to have them leave their service with Jumpstart proud of their service and commitment to giving back to the community. I learned so much in Jumpstart, not just about education policy and the early childhood environment, but also about myself as a leader. Every one of my Corps Members have excelled in their degree of participation and quality of work, I am looking forward to the rest of the semester to see how our children further develop their literacy and classroom skills.


Thursday, January 28, 2016

“Everybody can be great...because anybody can serve. You don't have to have a college degree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.” - Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Every year American University hosts a day of service in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day. While many people think of MLK Day as a day off from school and work, AU’s Center for Community Service & Engagement wants you to think of it as a day on, not off. A day where we uphold the values taught to us by the great visionary King, and follow in his footsteps by providing direct service to our communities. AU brings together about 300 alumni, community partners, staff and students to give back to their DC home. 

While many volunteers from AU were sent out into the community, a small group stayed behind. At 10AM a large gaggle of children burst into the Mary Graydon Center. These young students from the Boys & Girls Clubs, accompanied by their parents, had given up their day off from school to give back. With the guidance of AU alumni, the students put together emergency kits, Nobel Peace Prizes, scarves, dream catchers, and preschool literacy kits. 

Jumpstart DC at American University was excited to be able to participate in the day of service. Jumpstart had a table set up where the youth colored the images on note cards that the adults then helped compile into literacy kits for preschoolers in local underserved communities. These flash cards have an image with the accompanying word, and are used by the preschool students to help them practice writing their letters and words. The words they practice are vocabulary from books used in their classrooms by our Jumpstart Corps Members. 

Beyond community service, the Jumpstart table was abounding with community engagement and networking. Alumni volunteers discussed with current students old tales of American University’s housing and the secret past of the Tavern, while exchanging business cards with each other and trading traveling tips. 

Jumpstart was proud to be able to contribute to the MLK Day of Service and in creating a welcoming environment to encourage community building. A day well spent!

-DeLancey Lane
Winter is my least favorite season. And today doubly so. Our school had a two hour delay which meant team planning instead of a classroom meet and greet. While I am returning to the same classroom, I am excited for my new team members to meet our students. Last semester it was just me and my team leader; now I have two team mates and an experienced team leader. My hope is that the four of us can more effectively run a Jumpstart session. Only the best for our students.

When we finally do jump into our classroom we will read A Letter to Amy by Ezra Jack Keats. In my past experiences with Jumpstart, Session 5 marks a turning point for the students. By this point students understand the Jumpstart program. Not only does the session flow more easily, but vocabulary and reading comprehension really starts to bloom. A lot of things are changing this semester, and this session, but I remain hopeful that A Letter to Amy is our turning point.

-Amalia Mendoza

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Jumpstart Spring session will restart this week, and our afternoon team is ecstatic to return to the classroom. We will be continuing session 5 with the book “A Letter to Amy” by Ezra Jack Keats. This is the unit on friendship, which is a critical topic during this age, as children learn to communicate and interact with their peers. “A Letter to Amy” addresses issues of effective communication methods and emotional recognition. Much like the majority of Jumpstart core storybooks, “A Letter to Amy” introduces foreign concepts and words to the children. All of the things introduced are pertinent to their future growth in both school and life. This book gives an introduction into the mailing system, which is becoming outdated, but still relevant to connecting grandparents. In the book, Peter also has to take in account the feelings of others. He understands that Amy is most likely feeling anger towards him after he knocked her down. Emotional recognition is an essential skill to develop in order to empathize with others as well as accurately display your own emotions. Through this book and continued active group discussions and play, the classroom serves as an open area for creativity and learning.

My hope for Jumpstart in the upcoming semester is to have even more engaging conversations with the students. While most participate and show enthusiasm, I hope we can extend the same levels of excitement to the few who remain passive. I understand that they are going through a period of extreme changes and developments; as a Corps Member, I plan to encourage them to ask questions, interact with peers, and seek out new information about themselves and the world. I can foresee great excitement when we reenter the classroom and pick up on session implementations. 

-Bridgette Pressley

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Wishes for the Future

As we come to a close on our winter break, I’m filled with excitement and wonder as to what changes I’ll find in my Jumpstart classroom. Sure, there will be students who I could have sworn were shorter and changes in interests that seemed as though they’d last forever, but the subtler changes that I will see thrill me on a whole other level. New vocabulary, new conversations, and new ideas on the meaning of sharing are just beyond the reach of those school doors. With these feelings in mind, I’ve thought of wishes for the future for my students.
For my students, I first wish for the idea of sharing that I saw being planted during the previous semester sprout and grow fruitful in the duration of this semester. Their emotional well-being is dependent on their ever changing relationships with their peers. If they make good progress on developing the idea of “sharing” at this stage in their lives, it will only become easier and easier for them to cooperate and establish a well-balanced relationship with others.
Secondly, I wish that I can continue to provide an energetic session for my students in order to engage them to the best of my ability. That means making my Jumpstart materials with the amount of energy that I want my students to have during session. That means leaving my stresses at the door of my room in order to not let my students’ experiences be hindered because of my personal life. They deserve my full attention, and I owe it to them to provide them with this.
Lastly, I wish that my students will be captured with this love of learning. I hope to continue to see students pull books off the shelves and practice reading by themselves. I hope to see even more engagement during Circle Time as we figure out rhyming words and sing our silly songs. I hope to hear how they connect their own lives to the lives of the characters in our stories. If, as a team, my peers and I can help our students come to want a life full of endless learning, I would be able to live my life knowing that this was one of the best experiences that I will ever have.

So as I make materials and think of ways to better my students’ Jumpstart experience, these are the wishes and hopes that I keep in mind. Together, my team and I will do our best to see these hopes realized, and these dreams achieved. I can’t wait to go back.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Looking Back

           As Jumpstart is coming to an end, I keep thinking back about all of the things I have learned in the past semester. I have definitely grown a lot and learned a lot. I have gained new friends and experiences that I will carry with me for the rest of my life.

            Every time I think about Jumpstart, I can’t believe it’s ending. It was only like three months ago that I started, and to think that in these past three months, I have committed over 200 hours to Jumpstart alone. I think about the kids and the growth that they have made, all of the materials prep and team planning. I think about the mission of Jumpstart and the ways in which I have personally seen them play out in the classroom. I hear stories from other Corps Members and Team Leaders and I realize how much of an impact Jumpstart has on the community at large; that the impact goes far beyond the kids it serves.

            The two most memorable experiences I had at Jumpstart were actually during CAT and TOPEL testing. The first, during CAT, I was working with a student who was struggling to participate and having a bad day. I talked to her and listened to what she had to say and gradually she became much more engaged.

            The second most memorable experience I have from Jumpstart was after TOPEL testing. I had one of the quieter kids in the class, who was incredibly smart and sensitive. Before starting the test, we talked about the Easter egg he had decorated, and he was clearly very happy to have one-on-one time with Jumpstart. After I had finished testing for the day, he ran up to me and told me he wanted to be tested again. The next day, as I came back to test, he and half the class all begged to be tested. (Granted, this excitement changed as the reality of sitting still for the entirety of the test became clear, and most of them lost excitement very quickly.) However, this child, at the end of this day, again ran up to me before I left.

            I think these examples go to show that you really don’t need to do anything extraordinary to make an impact in someone’s life. Just noticing and commenting on the smallest things has a huge impact on people’s self-worth and attitude for the day.

            While I can say that I learned flexibility and patience through Jumpstart, these are things that I am reminded of every time I work with children or in new situations. But these smaller things are unique to Jumpstart and are memories and lessons that I know I will carry with me in the future.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Jumpstart Reflection

This semester has been revolutionary in that my team and I can finally see how much progress our students have made, both academically and behaviorally. I remember how much of a struggle it was at first to pass out name cards and expect students to be able to recite the letters in their names. Now, however, they are all eager to spell out their names and the names of their friends. Every week I include cards with vocabulary and words relevant to the week’s book and while one student is able to already read these cards; other students are successfully able to spell the words out which is good too. For our session reading, right before I even say the name of the book, my students recite to me the rules that follow during reading. They tell me how they are supposed to act and sit and show me without me having to say to do so. Although this does not last, they understand and will follow the rules when I reinforce them.  During reading, students often relate the book to books we have read previously and will answer my questions with more thought. My favorite moment is when they take turns answering or asking questions, though that is still something I am excited to keep working on with them. In circle time, most students now understand the concept of listening and sitting quietly and it is very exciting to see them understand the activities we do during circle time. The best part is when the students really know the words to songs and correct us or their friends. Centers always vary in quality and quantity, but overall, especially in comparison to the beginning of the year, students have come to enjoy all centers more equally and are a lot better at following directions than before. I noticed that Dramatic Play has always been the most popular and that their behavior has greatly improved over time during this center. During art they are better able to understand the need to have cleaner brushes and mixing colors on the paper rather than in the paint cups. It is interesting to see how they act now and remember how they acted before. I think our time there has been spent in a valuable way and that we really have helped to make a difference in the lives of the children. 

-Ekaterina Vasilenko