Twenty-four students from the University of Mississippi are changing the lives of young children in north Mississippi through teaching, thanks to a program called Jumpstart.
Jumpstart is a national organization that trains college students to prepare young children to succeed in kindergarten by helping develop reading and writing skills in a pre-K setting. The Mississippi chapter of the program is coordinated by staff within UM’s Center for Excellence in Literacy Instruction. UM students are currently working in six different classrooms in Oxford, Okolona, Water Valley and Quitman County.
“It’s such a celebratory moment when (children) write their name for the first time without any help,” said Rorie Bolton, a current elementary education student from Oxford who teaches in Okolona. “They run around the room showing all the Jumpstart members and their teachers. Honestly I can’t say who is the most proud, the child, me, or their teachers.”
Jumpstart reports that 61 percent of kindergarten students from low-income backgrounds are educationally behind compared to students from wealthy families. The program prepares college students to volunteer their time for 10 hours a week by reading with children in a classroom environment. Each student undergoes a training process that is overseen by UM staff members before entering the classroom.
The impact of Jumpstart in north Mississippi can be seen in reducing the teacher-to-student ratio to three-to-one, according to Olivia Morgan, the Mississippi Jumpstart program manager.
“The three-to-one ratio is the most impactful component of Jumpstart because the members are able to give the kids way more individualized attention,” Morgan said. “With the three-to-one ratio, we can tailor to what each individual student needs.”
This reduction in teacher-to-student ratio also allows children to engage in activities that would be hard for one teacher to handle on his or her own, such as painting and drawing.
“When the Jumpstart teams come into the classroom with a handful of members, we allow the children to talk with us and practice their language skills,” said Kim Diebold, a current communication sciences and disorders student from Des Plaines, Illinois. “We are able to provide them with individual attention twice a week that they might not receive otherwise if we did not come to their classroom.”
The 24 UM students have experienced positive impact in their own lives, too.
“I am so proud and impressed by these students who give up 10 hours of their week to spend with 2- and 3-year-olds,” Morgan said. “They are helping change the trajectory of their lives and there’s not a better time to do that than in their early childhood years.”
For more information on Jumpstart and how to join, contact Olivia Morgan at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The current class of UM students includes:
Kyra Addison, B.A. in Psycology
Allison Anderson, B.A.Ed. in Elementary Education
Rorie Bolton, B.A. Ed. in Elementary Education
Lucy Bradshaw, B.S. in Communication Sciences & Disorders
Sheranidan Burton, B.A. in Accountancy
Sara Butts, B.A. in Accountancy
Kenadi Campbell, B.A. in Political Science
Randy Cooper, B.A. in General Business
Kim Diebold, B.S. in Communication Sciences & Disorders
Gabriel Fairley, B.S. in Exercise Science
Tulexus Hardy, B. S. in Nursing
Terrius Harris, B.B.A. in General Business
Ryan Lackey, B.A. in Accountancy
Katie Lagnese, B.A. in English
Sade Michaud, B.B.A. in General Business
Ella Moore, B.A. Ed. in English Education
Grace Paddock, B.S. in Communication Sciences & Disorders
Madison Renda, B.A. in Psychology
Janeisha Simpson, B.A. in Psychology
Shamaria Singleton, Undeclared
Maggie Weber, B.A. in Psychology
Kiara Williams, B.B.A. in Marketing
Mary Wimsett, B.S. in Biology
Caitlyn Yochum, B.S. in Communication Sciences & Disorders
By Steven Irby