Ready, Set, Jump!

    Southern students will work this year with local preschool children from low-income neighborhoods in an effort to bolster their literacy, language and socio-emotional skills.

    SCSU will become only the second college or university in Connecticut to join Jumpstart – a national program funded by AmeriCorps that seeks to close the achievement gap by connecting college students with classes of preschool kids. The Southern students will offer instruction to the children for two hours per day, twice a week, as part of a supplemental program to the preschools’ existing curriculum. Southern’s students are being trained this fall and may be ready to work in the classrooms as early as November or December.

    “This truly is a wonderful opportunity, both for the preschool children and our own students,” said Adam Goldberg, an SCSU associate professor of elementary education who is serving as a liaison to the Jumpstart program. “Studies have shown that the kids who participate in this program show significant gains in their literacy and language skills, and that it also helps with their social skills.

    “And our students – generally those in our teacher training programs – benefit in several ways. They gain valuable, hands-on experience in working with young children; a significant accomplishment to put on their resume, and even a financial reward.”

    Amanda Gryzkewicz, Jumpstart’s site manager for the new Southern program, agreed.

    “I participated in this program as a college student and I can say first-hand that I saw the benefits that this program provided,” she said.

    After graduating from DePaul University with a Bachelor of Science degree in elementary education, Gryzkewicz went on to work as a pre-school teacher in Mequon, Wis. and most recently in Southlake, Texas.

    “I am so excited about the opportunity to be working with Southern’s students, as well as local pre-school teachers and children,” she said. “I really believe this program will be a win-win for everyone.”

    Goldberg said that Southern contacted Jumpstart a few months ago to inquire about participating in the program. “The response was very positive and in a short period of time, we have been able to lay the groundwork.”

    He said that although most of the students participating will probably be those seeking a teaching degree, it is not a requirement.

    Gryzkewicz, who will work out of an office at SCSU, said Jumpstart is working with 12 universities in the tri-state area, serving more than 1,400 children. She will be busy recruiting Southern students in the coming weeks, hoping to attract as many as 35 students. She also noted that college students work more than 300 hours per year in the program, and that after completing those hours, they receive an award of $1,175 to use toward tuition, books or loans. They can earn that amount in succeeding years, as well, if they also work at least 300 hours in those years.