Lizzy Carrick, a junior at DePaul, loves her job. She works for organization called Jumpstart to help preschool students in low-income neighborhoods develop the skills they need to become successful lifelong learners.
"To be quite honest, public preschools in Chicago--that's tough," Carrick said. DePaul's Jumpstart employees serve 8 different schools in Chicago's North and West sides, and according to Carrick, these schools are scarce in resources. Often times, the preschoolers and their teachers also lack a common language, making it difficult for kids to build the relationships so crucial to early childhood education. "It's a really crucial time in a child's development," Carrick said.
She worked as a corps member from 2006 to 2007, then moved up to be a team leader for the 2007/2008 school year. After taking a leave of absence to study abroad in France, Carrick returned to Jumpstart and now works as an office assistant in their office in the Steans Center.
The Jumpstart program works like this: Corps members are paired up with partner students, and they meet for two-hour sessions about twice a week. During these sessions, the corps member works with the preschooler to develop literacy and social interaction skills, as well as building initiative to play, learn, and interact with other students. Team leaders are experienced corps members who offer support, plan classroom activities, and keep open lines of communication between corps members, the preschool, and the Jumpstart program coordinator.
A child's first experience with education determines his or her perception of what is important about school. "We're providing support at a time where it's needed the most, I think," said Carrick. "The earlier we can equip children with self confidence and interest in their education, the better off they'll be."
Jumpstart gives help where it is needed in a progressive way that strays from tradition. DePaul students who want to get involved in Jumpstart can visit the Steans Center or apply online at jstart.org. Be forewarned: You must qualify for work-study in order to work for Jumpstart. "I think as a college student, it's been really powerful," said Carrick. "It taught me a lot about my strengths and my interests and where I want to go."