By Madeline Thigpen
National educational nonprofit Jumpstart is using its Georgia division to address the need for language and literacy support in Atlanta’s low-income communities.
Jumpstart Atlanta has, for the past 15 years, partnered with early childhood learning centers to place trained college students in preschool classrooms.
“That provides more of the direct one-on-one contact with children that may be struggling in different areas,” said Eshé Collins, Senior Director of Programs at Jumpstart.
According to data provided by Jumpstart, 97 percent of all their students come from low-income households. Collins said this is important, because oftentimes, children from affluent families enter kindergarten at more advanced reading levels than their lower-income peers.
“What the research shows is that when children actually start education early, they enter school prepared and that sets them on a trajectory of success,” said Collins. “But access to high quality early education is not equitable throughout our communities.”
Collins went on to say that Jumpstart includes the student’s families, so that the child can continue learning even while they are outside the classroom. In addition to the academic program, Jumpstart includes social-emotional education as well.
Embedded into the curriculum two years prior to the pandemic, Collins said that her team works with students to understand emotions and how to communicate them effectively to others.
Jumpstart also has a summer program that Collins said is expecting to see a return to pre-pandemic numbers as more parents become comfortable with in-person learning.
She added that a lot of times, there are very few options for summer camp for kids 3-5 years old that are academically focused, and when they do exist, the programs are very expensive. This is what Collins said contributes to the gap between students from low-income families versus higher-income families prior to the start of kindergarten.
In addition to trying to prepare students for the coming school year, the summer program addresses the learning loss that many students experienced due to the pandemic.
Candice Jordan, Jumpstart’s associate vice president of development, said the organization works to make sure that the college students in the classrooms reflect the communities they are serving.
Jordan said 99 percent of the students they serve in Jumpstart Atlanta are Black, and they value the connection between instructors and the students who often come from the same community.
“Essentially, it’s giving them that first taste in the classroom. Many teachers don’t get early opportunities to see what it’s like to engage with students, build a curriculum and make an impact,” said Jordan.
Jumpstart states that over 60 percent of their corps members leave Jumpstart wanting to pursue a degree in education.
“It’s just as important to build a diverse pipeline of educators who are high quality and who look like the students they’re serving,” Jordan added.
Members of Jumpstart ATL hail from local colleges and universities such as Spelman College, Morehouse College, Clark Atlanta University, Georgia State University and Georgia Tech.
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