Helping Break the Cycle of Poverty

    Want to make a real difference in a young child’s life? Southern students are now being recruited for the Jumpstart program, a national early education organization funded by AmeriCorps that recruits and trains college students to serve preschool children in low-income neighborhoods. The program aims to bolster children’s literacy, language, and socio-emotional skills. Southern is now in its third year as a Jumpstart partner, and students in the program work with local preschool children from three New Haven schools. The program not only provides Southern students with a high quality service experience; they also receive a stipend of nearly $2000 at the end of 300 hours of service, which are carried out within the academic year. Students must use their stipend toward the cost of tuition, books or loans, and they can also earn that amount in succeeding years, if they work at least 300 hours in those years.

    Of course, the preschool children benefit from the program as well — every year, Jumpstart’s Research and Evaluation team analyzes data about participating children’s language and literacy skills, and they find that the majority of children served by Jumpstart make at least one developmental gain.

    Southern students who participate offer instruction to the children for two hours per day, twice a week, as part of a supplemental program to the preschools’ existing curriculum. Students are asked to commit to 10 hours per week, however, to account for planning and training, says Amy Piccirillo, Southern’s Jumpstart coordinator. Piccirillo adds that Jumpstart is a full-year commitment, but work/study students can use it as their work experience and students in EDU 200 classes can count it towards their fieldwork.

    “Jumpstart is the highest quality experiential opportunity that is available at Southern,” says Dawn Cathey, a university assistant in the Office of the Dean of Student Affairs and an adjunct faculty member who teaches in the First-Year Experience program. Cathey is Piccirillo’s campus liaison. “Employers are looking for experiential opportunities in students’ backgrounds,” Cathey adds.

    Piccirillo is still recruiting students for the 2014-2015 academic year, hoping to attract at least 42 students, “but more would be great!” Southern students are currently being trained for Jumpstart, but new recruits are welcome to join at any time. Piccirillo says that if a student does fewer than 300 hours over the year, he or she will still receive a prorated monetary award at the year’s end.

    The lessons are established by Jumpstart and students receive training in how to carry out the lessons and are given the materials they need for the lessons. “Jumpstart’s mission is for every child in America to be able to enter kindergarten prepared to learn,” says Piccirillo. “Ultimately, the goal is to break the cycle of poverty.”

    Students interested in working in the Jumpstart program should contact Piccirillo at piccirilloa2@southernct.edu.