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UW-Eau Claire Students To Help
Jump-Start Preschoolers' Learning
MAILED: May 13, 2002
EAU CLAIRE — One-on-one attention is rare in most early-childhood classrooms, but it's the focus of Jumpstart, a newly adopted program at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire that pairs federal work-study college students with children in Head Start and other programs serving low-income preschoolers to help improve their early literacy and social skills.
"When I first read about Jumpstart, I thought this is too good. We have to be involved in this," said Dr. Donald Mowry, director of UW-Eau Claire's Center for Service-Learning.
Mowry convinced campus officials to form a partnership with Jumpstart, which currently serves more than 2,500 children in 19 communities nationwide. Founded in 1994, Jumpstart connects two national trends - the public need for quality early childhood programs and the emerging national service movement recruiting college students to community service.
Since UW-Eau Claire is at the forefront of that trend with its requirement that all students fulfill 30 or more clock-hours of approved service-learning activities to graduate with a baccalaureate degree, the opportunity to become a Jumpstart partner fit perfectly with the university's academic and community engagement goals.
Dr. George Scarlett from Tufts University in Boston, one of 16 colleges and universities currently in the program, says Jumpstart can energize and provide meaning to coursework on campus and vice versa. "In short, Jumpstart is an excellent organization for any college or university to use to set up a model program in academic service-learning," he said.
The Jumpstart program focuses on three major goals - school success, family involvement and future teachers. Through the AmeriCorps National Service program, Jumpstart provides funding for each campus program to support a full-time program coordinator, student training and leadership development and other expenses.
"Best of all," Mowry said, "Jumpstart provides coordination, training, curriculum materials and support to help the university manage the program. There's even funding available to pay the salaries for two years for 50 Jumpstart alumni nationwide who go on to teach in a Head Start program through the Pearson Teacher Fellowship program."
UW-Eau Claire's program will get under way next fall. Potential partners include Head Start centers in Eau Claire, Altoona and possibly Augusta, as well as other non-profit early childhood centers such as the UW-Eau Claire Children's Center where there are children who qualify for the federal child development program.
Mowry said four teams of 10 federal work-study supported students will be selected to participate in Jumpstart. They will undergo about 30 hours of advance training as well as ongoing staff development.
"Obviously the program is ideal for education majors to get real-world experience," Mowry said, "but students from any major who have federal work study eligibility and who have an interest in working with small children can participate."
Jumpstart recognizes that the students are not professionals and there are limits to what they can do, Mowry said. "Typically they will work with children who are in the academic middle of their classes, not the most advanced or the most troubled," he said. "They are not trained in special education."
The students may stay with the program for one year, which translates into 300 hours of planning and class time over two semesters, or for a maximum of two years. If they complete 300 hours over two semesters, they receive a tuition grant in addition to their work study wages.
Assessments from the 2000-01 school year show that Jumpstart has significant effects on the participating preschool-age-children's language, social and adaptive skills. Mowry said Jumpstart participants had higher average gains in skill development than students who did not participate in Jumpstart over the school year.
"This is truly a 'gain-gain' opportunity for all the partners. Everyone benefits. Children enter school prepared to succeed. College students gain real-world experience, make contacts in the community and earn money doing it. And the community is a better place because of it," Mowry said.
For more information about Jumpstart, check the Web at www.jstart.org or contact Mowry at the UW-Eau Claire Center for Service-Learning, (715) 836-4649.
UW-Eau Claire News Bureau
Updated: May 13, 2002