Program Helps Little Ones Get a Jump on Education
School of Interdisciplinary Studies Partners with National Preschool Organization
Sept. 5, 2008
The School of Interdisciplinary Studies is helping to rewrite the story on child literacy problems by working with a national organization to shore up skills among Dallas-area preschool kids.
The school has become an affiliate of the national nonprofit organization Jumpstart. Since its inception at Yale University in 1993, Jumpstart has been pairing at-risk preschool children with adult volunteers in intensive, year-long relationships to build the literacy, social and emotional skills children need to thrive.
UT Dallas and eight other prestigious universities across the country are partnering with Jumpstart for the first time this school year. The expansion will allow Jumpstart to serve nearly 15,000 preschool children around the country.
“It was extremely important to us to bring the Jumpstart program to the Dallas area,” said George Fair, dean of the School of Interdisciplinary Studies. “This is a new tool for UT Dallas to serve the community in a very measurable and impactful way.”
The program’s Read for the Record initiative also hosts book drives for partner daycare centers. According to Jumpstart, more than 80 percent of preschool and after-school programs serving children from low-income families have no age-appropriate books for their children.
The organization’s research also indicates that although only one book is available per 300 children in low-income areas, the statistic is much higher for more affluent neighborhoods: An average of 13 book titles is available to each child in middle-income neighborhoods. Jumpstart asserts that the number of books in a child’s home is the only measure that significantly impacts a child’s reading scores.
The program delivers a research-based, best practice curriculum to preschoolers in nearly 70 communities in 20 states across America. During the eight-month Jumpstart school year, program members serve 10-12 hours each week through a mix of assistance during regular daycare hours and structured supplemental classroom sessions.
“The time commitment on the part of the UT Dallas Jumpstart volunteers is an investment in a child’s future,” said Bellatin. “The positive effect for each preschooler and their family may be seen for years into the future.”
The preschool children aren’t the only ones who benefit from the program. Jumpstart imbues college students with the value of community service.
“Seeing the children’s excitement at being able to read when they start kindergarten was incredible,” said UT Dallas Jumpstart team leader Olivia Myles, who previously volunteered with the Jumpstart program at San Francisco State University.
“My desire to be involved in the Dallas community and to help children be prepared for kindergarten prompted me to sign up for the new program here,” said Myles. “Knowing the program works makes me feel very satisfied about giving my time to the organization.”
The other new universities to the program are Boston College, Rutgers University, Catholic University, Emory University, North Park University, the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, Seattle University and Whittier College.
Jumpstart is a volunteer program; however, UT Dallas participants who complete the service term may be eligible for work/study assistance, course credit or an AmeriCorps education award of up to $1,000 to use towards tuition, loans or books.
Volunteering: Students at the undergraduate and graduate levels can apply for volunteer positions with Jumpstart.
Education credit: UT Dallas participants may be eligible for work/study assistance, course credit or AmeriCorps education awards up to $1,000 for tuition, loans or books.
How to apply: Visit the Web site for Jumpstart. The deadline is Sept.10.
More information: Call Irene Marroquin-Bellatin at (972) 883-2024 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.