Friday, December 3, 2010

My experience with Jumpstart AmeriCorps: making a difference while gaining knowledge and help in paying off student loans

Length of service: August 2009 – May 2010
Joined through: San Francisco State University (you can also join through City College San Francisco).  Here is a full list of university partners.
Jumpstart for a Day event pictures
At the beginning of my senior year at San Francisco State University, I started thinking about how prepared I really was to make it out in the real world.  With little to no hands on experience, I came to conclusion that I wasn't prepared at all.  I sought opportunities related to working with children and ran into Jumpstart at school.  Little did I know, it would turn out to be one of the most fulfilling and rewarding experiences of my life.  The task was challenging, but a good kind of challenging--the challenging that helps broaden your perspective, develop critical thinking skill, equips you with more tools for life, and makes you into an overall better person.  The kids are eager beavers with soul and my days with them will never be forgotten.  Days were filled with songs, laughter, food, the most random cute questions in the world, and most importantly, love.
Jumpstart is a program affiliated with AmeriCorps that recruits and trains thousands of college students and community volunteers to work with preschool children in low-income neighborhoods, helping them to develop the language, literacy, and social skills they need to succeed in school and in life.  Click here to visit their official website.
*Reflect on your Jumpstart experience this year. What have you gained by working with Jumpstart. What would you change, if anything, about your year as an AmeriCorps member? How was your experience working with a low-income community?
I’ve gained so many intangible skills, fond memories, and long-lasting relationships throughout my service with Jumpstart (to name only a few of the endless benefits -education award of $1300 &  living allowance).  There’s no better way to learn than by hands on experience and Jumpstart gave me just that.  Jumpstart has presented me with the opportunity to fully immerse myself in a challenging environment that in turn, has helped me grow.  I’ve also learned that children living in poverty stricken areas aren’t destined for doom.  They have opportunities to excel in life just like others in more financially stable areas, but they have to have good dispositions toward school.  These dispositions are influenced by the adults around them and that’s where AmeriCorps fits in.
The eagerness of the teachers, parents, and staff at Southeast Head Start to break stereotypes and go against all odds gave me strength was encouraging and to be working amongst such people made me feel like I was part of an important movement.  I feel more well rounded having obtained teaching experience in a low-income community with a diverse crowd.  There are many negative stereotypes on low-income neighborhoods and it seems as though many people have written them off without first giving them a chance.  After my experience with Jumpstart I learned that with a little inspiration and encouragement, you can take off with your dreams despite all odds are stacked against you.
Community Service Statement
Throughout life, I've encountered people that have inspired and motivated me through tough times where I've felt helpless and alone.  As a kid, I was unaware of how much they've done for me, but as I grew older, I realized how much time and effort they've contributed to my well being.  In honor of these people, I've set out to give back to others what they've given me--hope, encouragement, respect, a voice, joy, and a drive to try my very best.  Such characteristics, I believe, are ones that contribute to the good of all humanity.  A little inspiration has gone such a long way and I can't imagine where its influence will end.  With Jumpstart AmeriCorps, I set out to inspire as many people and children as I can in hopes that someday they too will be able to prevail in all their endeavors.
Community service not only satisfies my hunger to help those in need.  It also opens my eyes to important issues in the world that often go unnoticed, such as poverty and the inequalities that follow.  With more knowledge, comes more power; and with more power, I can make more of a difference.

*How can you use your experience in Jumpstart and AmeriCorps to continue to grow as a leader and make an impact on your community? How does this experience tie into your future goals?
Everything I learned in Jumpstart, I’ve instilled within my psyche.  The skills I’ve obtained are invaluable and will essentially aid in my goals to becoming the best teacher I can be.  I think the biggest influence I can have on my community and on the world in general, is to instill positivity within children and give them the tools they need in accomplishing their future aspirations.  Not only was I taught specific techniques in dealing with children, I was also taught how to be observant and to look at situations through more than one perspective.
*How did you support the language and literacy development of your focus children?  How did you support a group with children whose needs were so different?
I made an effort to come up with activities pertaining to the subject matter to keep children engaged.  They’re more likely to learn and hit curriculum objectives when their interest is at peak levels.  I implemented techniques obtained from jumpstart training such as asking open-ended questions, providing developmentally appropriate practices, and stimulating as many senses at one time to help kids internalize lessons to help develop language and literacy skills of my focus children.  I made a strong effort to be a good observer every session so that I can assess their skill levels and with this information was I able to custom tailor plans according to their special needs.  As long as all of the children are given activities they can handle, they stayed engaged.  This is how I supported a group with children with varying learning styles and needs.
Sessions: (there are many session times available to fit into your schedule)
My sessions were every Wednesday and Friday from 8:40-11:30AM
A Typical day at the preschool:
1.    Welcome (3-5 minutes)
PURPOSE:  Children learn to transition to Jumpstart from their previous activity. Children understand the elements of the Jumpstart session and what comes next.
2.    Reading (approximately 15 minutes)
PURPOSE: Children develop an interest in and enjoyment of stories, develop an initial understanding of selected vocabulary, develop oral language skills and develop comprehension of the story and related content knowledge.
3.    Circle Time (approximately 15 minutes)
PURPOSE: Children begin to notice that some words begin with the same sound, building phonemic awareness.  They will also concentrate on activities that aim at building alphabet awareness.
4.    Center Time (approximately 50 minutes)
Purpose: Children build language and literacy skills while engaging in specialized centers    including: writing, books, puzzles and manipulatives, dramatic play, and art.
5.    Sharing and Goodbye (3-5 minutes)
PURPOSE: Children learn to recall and talk about favorite activities through conversation.
Children begin to look ahead and think about upcoming session activities.
My resume with Jumpstart:
    Helped build language and literacy skills (ages 3-5)
    Crafted developmentally appropriate lesson plans tailored to each child’s specific needs in order to better facilitate learning
    Modeled and supported problem solving and adult-child interactions
    Built meaningful relationships with children, actively participated, and encouraged participation
    Modeled and coached high quality Corps Member/child interactions
    Planned and organized a range of individual/group activities, including role play, movement, dance, singing, games, arts and crafts and nature activities
    Built meaningful relationships with parents to better address their child’s needs and informed them on their child’s progress
    Took initiative in a team of five to create activities to better engage children and aid them in achieving curriculum goals
    Ensuring that the health and safety of children and staff is maintained at all times, both inside and outside the classroom environment
    Constructed 2 portfolios documenting development of focus children (available upon request)
    Earned a Reader of the Year award for demonstrating best practices in reading to children
450 hours of service with Jumpstart
If you have any questions at all, please feel free to contact me!

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