For the last 10 years a campus program consisting of 40 Fresno State students has dedicated its time to help make a child’s preschool experience more rewarding. JumpStart Fresno is a program that aims to teach children the fundamental learning skills while still allowing them to have fun.
“Programs like JumpStart are important because we are providing the extra attention that some children need in order to develop and be prepared for later years in their education,” Neil Dion, director of JumpStart Fresno, said.
Located in the Jan and Bud Richter Center for Community Engagement and Service Learning, JumpStart Fresno was started at Fresno State in the fall of 2001.
JumpStart Fresno focuses on helping low-income children and their preschool programs. However, it does not provide the entire preschool experience for a child. Currently, JumpStart Fresno works with four Head Start centers and the Joyce M. Huggins Center on campus.
“JumpStart is a supplemental program that takes place in existing preschool programs,” Dion said. “Our tutors are hired to work with all of the children in the classroom.”
The program heavily focuses on language and literacy skills, targeting oral language, vocabulary, comprehension and rhyme awareness.
JumpStart sessions are led by corps members who implement lesson plans in an existing preschool classroom, twice a week. Corps members are Fresno State students that are dedicated to assisting and teaching children basic learning skills in early education.
Sessions consist of a variety of activities that provide children with a learning environment that is fun. Activities used in JumpStart sessions include reading time, where students read from 20 different core storybooks; circle time, where the class learns songs and poems; and center time, where children choose which activities they would like to participate in.
“The goal is to make these activities as fun as possible,” Dion said. “We want children to play, as that is one important way they learn new things at such a young age.”
Recreation administration major Christine Zeledon believes the JumpStart program is successfully structured to work hand-and-hand with children instead of simply teaching them the skills they need to learn.
“We are able to work one on one with our students and by doing that we are able to focus on what each child needed to learn individually instead of working with a large group of 30 kids,” Zeledon said.
As a corps member, Zeledon said they focus on establishing a personal connection with the children inside the classroom. By doing this, the corps members create a welcoming environment for the students that will help each child learn and become successful.
“I loved working with the preschoolers,” Zeledon said. “They were so amazing and adorable. I feel like I learned so much from them even though they were only about three years old.”
Although Zeledon had to resign from JumpStart this year due to educational plans, she strongly believes that most students who work with JumpStart care tremendously about the children and what is best for them.
Along with a strong care for children, many Corps Members concentrate on the impact they are making on a child’s educational future. By mainly focusing on working with low-income children at select preschool centers such as Head Start center and the Joyce M. Huggins Center, JumpStart is giving children opportunities they may not have at home.
According to Dion, many studies have shown that children from a low-income background are not exposed to the same vocabulary and opportunities to interact with literacy that many other children from a higher income background may be exposed to.
Three-year Corps Member Grizelva Morfin says JumpStart is successful because it is a non-profit organization that works hard to better the community.
“We are giving children basic skills that will help them in school, which could lead to a higher education,” Morfin said. “Some of these children have parents that do not speak English or that do not have time to implement these skills at home, which is why we can make an impact in their lives.”