Emerson College’s only independent, student-run newspaper since 1947

The Berkeley Beacon

Emerson College’s only independent, student-run newspaper since 1947

The Berkeley Beacon

Emerson College’s only independent, student-run newspaper since 1947

The Berkeley Beacon

Emerson’s Jumpstart program provides students with early education opportunities

Photo+courtesy+of+Jumpstart+MarComm
Photo courtesy of Jumpstart MarComm

Tucked between Piano Row and the Shaking Crab is the Elma Lewis Center at 148 Boylston. The office space serves as the headquarters for Jumpstart at Emerson, a national language and literacy program focused on improving early childhood education for children three to five years old. The organization primarily partners with preschools in low-income communities or neighborhoods where families are at or below the national or local poverty level. 

“Jumpstart has an overall goal of improving the early childhood education sector as a whole,” Jumpstart Emerson Site Manager Liz Weber said. This includes “increasing workforce development, helping advocate for higher wages for early childhood education, more funding.”

Including Emerson, the Jumpstart program includes 15 host universities in Massachusetts and 69 across the country. Host sites include corporate sites owned by Jumpstart in addition to their college partners and affiliate sites where the program is owned entirely by the university but is supported by Jumpstart. Emerson partners with Suffolk University and Bunker Hill Community College for bi-weekly team meetings and shared training. 

Students involved in Jumpstart through Emerson are trained on the organization’s curriculum, specifically in oral language and literacy development. Involvement includes students visiting one of the four early education partner sites twice a week for four hours to work alongside teachers to interact with and educate children. The program allows a maximum of 40 students to join each year. This year, 26 student members from Emerson will serve about 130 students.

“It’s nice to give [college students] skills that will apply to other contexts of their life, even if they’re not ultimately going into teaching,” Weber said. “They’re able to find those commonalities. They’re able to form those strong relationships, and those are things that will benefit anybody working in industry in the future.” 

Involvement with Jumpstart can take the form of work-study, where students receive federally-funded compensation. Students can also be involved as volunteers or as statement placements, where AmeriCorps provides Jumpstart Emerson with $4,500 for up to eight students who don’t qualify for work-study as compensation.

Jumpstart student members visit sites that span five classrooms at Nurtury Preschool, YMCA in South Shore, and State Street Early Learning Center. An additional classroom is through a partnership with the non-profit Families First, which helps individuals develop parenting skills, and Urban Edge, which works toward housing and social development in Roxbury. Both organizations collaborate to facilitate parenting classes, and Jumpstart members spend time with the children during classes. Jumpstart Emerson additionally works with Project HOPE’s childcare centers, where children are bused in for classroom-based instruction and interaction. 

For writing, literature, and publishing freshman Liv Mazzola, joining Jumpstart was a natural extension of her work as a drama teacher for children in kindergarten to sixth grade during the summer.

“I think it’s so magical to see kids in the process of learning and to spark their love for learning and their imagination and everything. It’s such a special thing,” Mazzola said. “I grew up in a family with a lot of baby cousins and little cousins, so I’ve always loved being around kids.” 

Mazzola underwent training at the end of the first semester and into winter break. In a typical year, training takes place during October twice a week to mimic when students would have their shifts in the classrooms. However, Weber joined the Emerson branch of Jumpstart in October after working as a site manager from the Jumpstart program at the University of Massachusetts Boston branch for two years. 

Training revolves around reading since classroom sessions align with the Jumpstart core storybook, a themed curriculum resource. Classroom management, positive reinforcement, engagement, and redirection are also covered in training, along with the history and demographics of the neighborhoods where the classrooms are located, specifically the Roxbury and Quincy neighborhoods. 

Photo courtesy of Jumpstart MarComm

At the Project HOPE classroom, Mazzola and the three students in her team start by singing a song to the children before going into the reading for the week. The reading influences the hands-on portion of the class time. One of the readings mentioned musicians, so Mazzola and her team brought instruments for the children to interact with. Mazzola made a makeshift guitar with a tissue box and rubber bands. 

“It’s so cute to see their little personalities,” Mazzola said. “I’m excited to be a bigger part of their lives as we go through the year and get to know them and be someone in their lives that they’re able to go to or have fun with or learn from.” 

As a part of their 300-hour service requirement, Jumpstart work-study students are expected to support and build connections with the children. Typically, students visit the sites in teams of two to six, overseen by a student team leader.  

Weber first participated in Jumpstart when she joined the program at New York University, where she went for her undergraduate. During Weber’s first year as a student participant with Jumpstart, she bonded with a student who arrived at the learning center at 7:30 a.m. and did not leave until 6 p.m., making her the last child there each day. Weber did her individual classroom services on Fridays, arrived at 9 a.m., and stayed an hour after her shift ended because “she didn’t want me to leave.” 

“I didn’t want to leave at five and just walk away from her knowing she was going to be there another hour,” Weber said. “It made me think about how I could be that adult for other children, too, because I was for her.” 

Charlie Triozzi, a writing, literature, and publishing senior, joined Jumpstart in his freshman year in 2020 while operations were still remote. During his first year and a half with the organization, Triozzi recorded videos engaging with the curriculum that would be sent to the children. 

Triozzi currently works as a team leader, a position he stepped into last year. He hopes to apply his experience with the organization to a career in the children’s publishing industry. 

“It’s important for me to know how much impact these books have,” Triozzi said. “When I’m eventually in the workforce, I have real-life experience working with kids so I’m not just making books, I’m making them because they have an impact on whoever reads it.” 

The program aims to facilitate connections between the student participants and the families they are working with, which has been true for media arts production sophomore Vhay Buchholz-Guerrero, who joined at the beginning of her freshman year. Applications for the program are open each year for students to participate in the year-long program. 

“We get to not only chart their growth as they learn to understand these reading and writing terms but also how they grow as individuals,” Buchholz-Guerrero said. “They’re so funny, so creative, so intense, so immensely talented, that it’s special to get to know them.”

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About the Contributor
Bridget Frawley, Staff Writer
Bridget Frawley (she/her) is a freshman journalism major from Jupiter, Florida. When she is not writing for the news section, she is a morning anchor for Mornings with George Knight of WERS 88.9 FM. She also loves reading, going on long walks, and thrifting.

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