Photo courtesy of Jumpstart
Six schools, 12 classrooms, 85 to 100 Pepperdine workers and an estimated 240 preschoolers. These are the rough numbers for Pepperdine’s Jumpstart program this year.
As schools moved into an online format, Jumpstart shifted to connect with the preschoolers learning virtually. Jumpstart is a program that prepares preschoolers for kindergarten with a focus on low-income areas where students are not exposed to as much vocabulary, according to the Jumpstart website. The program has a strong focus on building language skills for the students to move into kindergarten.
Pepperdine Jumpstart Coordinator Savanna Davenport explained the strategies the team uses to engage with young students.
“We always want to be a resource to our program partners,” Davenport said.
As well as working with the program partners, the team is working on creative ways to get materials out to the students they help.
“We’re making what we’re going to call ‘Jumpstart in a box,'” Davenport said. “It can go home to every student, so when they’re on Zoom with their Jumpstart team, their Jumpstart friends, they can pull out special things — special materials — to go along with the content they are learning.”
Pepperdine’s number of preschoolers for 2020 does not fall far off from the regular count of 320, with reduced enrollment due to COVID-19 for the 2020–2021 school year.
Pepperdine Jumpstart interns Derek Pinto and Kaitlyn Ishii spent the summer and beginning of fall semester working on recruiting new student employees.
“We couldn’t have done that without [Pinto and Ishii’s] efforts of coordinating all the first-year seminar presentations, Instagram live sessions, creating a vision for our Instagram with a style guide and all of that,” Davenport said.
Davenport said Pinto and Ishii reworked the Jumpstart Instagram to catch the attention of students interested in participating. The Pepperdine Jumpstart application has only three requirements: an accommodating schedule, federal or Pepperdine work study and a commitment to a year of service.
“I feel like we’ve had a lot of good turnout regarding applications, even with everything being remote and not being able to see people in person,” Ishii said.
Pinto said he and his coworkers hope to be in person next semester but are using the changes to build what the program looks like in person as well. The team used the new online format to make adjustments for future semesters, including pre-recorded sessions.
The team is coordinating how supplies will be sent to the schools and families in addition to finalizing content and scheduling the online sessions. Davenport said Jumpstart aims to help the program providers while completing the typical Jumpstart activities.
Not only does Jumpstart help program providers, but it also benefits Pepperdine students who participate, Pinto said.
“People should know that because you are a part of an AmeriCorps program through Jumpstart, you do get on the radar for AmeriCorps,” Pinto said. “And even personally, that’s brought up a lot of future opportunities and aspects of work [such as] education or community service outreach and [combatting] homelessness and stuff like that. So just even being part of this program while at Pepperdine can bring those future routes.”
Jumpstart applications are open for the 2020–2021 school year. Although the program is run through the Pepperdine Volunteer Center, it is a paid job.
“When someone is participating and working for Jumpstart, they are taking part in national service,” Davenport said. “That’s a really big deal.”
Jumpstart members said they hope the new virtual format will provide the needed services to the schools and the students.
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