Jose Cardenas: Jump Start is a national program that connects volunteers with books and kids with preschoolers who need adults to read to them. We will talk to the senior program director for Jump Start in a minute but here's what the program is about.
SOT: The Jump Start mission to me means giving everybody an opportunity to succeed. Especially the children who come from low-income neighborhoods. It's important to close the achievement gap through Jump Start, we get to do that.
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We all know the importance of early childhood education. We can speak to how children need care. They need quality care. Low-income children in particular need more attention.
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Early learning can influence what happens later on in the child's academic success. The professions they go into and maybe what happens with their families.
For them, it means having a new friend that's going to cater to them. I love that something exciting happens every day. I love that I am kind of a catalyst for growth and change.
They love to see their core members who they have built this relationship with. But what they are really excited about is for that learning, that they know Jump Start has helped me realize the power that service has. And the impact that one person can have on the community. When you multiple ply by a group of college students and a group of really passionate leaders, the change that you can make is immense.
Jose Cardenas: Here tonight with me to talk more about Jump Start is Atalaya. Thank you for joining us on "Horizonte." You are here in Phoenix to work on this pilot program.
Atalaya Sergi: Yes.
Jose Cardenas: So what was the reason Jump Start decided that they would try and do this here?
Atalaya Sergi: So one of our main goals is to continue to serve as many children as we can. Our mission is to make sure that every child enters kindergarten prepared to succeed. So one thing that we started to do about a year ago is to really look strategically at communities where there was a need, where we could partner and serve more children with the Jump Start program. And in conversations in research, Arizona, the Phoenix area, became an area that we really wanted to target and become a part of. And we began a conversation with the Maricopa County Head Start agency. They came out to visit Jump Start in Southern California. We continued conversations with them. Began to see that this was a place where we should be. Together we felt like it was a great fit. And so we launched our pilot program in 2012 at the beginning of this academic year.
Jose Cardenas: And you launched it in Mesa.
Atalaya Sergi: In Mesa.
Jose Cardenas: Two classes as I understand.
Atalaya Sergi: We are in two classes. And in Hawthorne Elementary School. Working with about 34 preschool children and their teachers. I was just there this week observing sessions, and just seeing the interactions between our volunteers and the preschool children in the classroom. And that's one of the wonderful things about Jump Start is when you see it in action, just the amount of energy and love for learning that happens in a classroom is completely just overpowering.
Jose Cardenas: If I had been in one of these classrooms a year ago and then had gone back to see the classroom with Jump Start people in it, what would I notice is different?
Atalaya Sergi: So when our volunteers go into the classroom, one of the things that you would notice is that there are many more small groups and individual interactions happening in the classroom. Our curriculum is very intentional and focuses on some foundational language and literacy skills such as building vocabulary, themic awareness, rhyme awareness. When you go into the classroom, what you see is volunteers doing fun and engaging activities with their children to build those skills.
Jose Cardenas: Give us an example of what you observed just recently.
Atalaya Sergi: So our curriculum is based on 20 core story books. That's kind of the foundation of where we start. And today I went in and observed the volunteers were reading with the children, Gilberto and the wind. So when you go in you will see several small groups of children engaged in reading the book. But they are not just reading. They are having conversations about what's happening in the stories. They are giving them vocabulary words that relate to the story book, making sure that they understand and they can comprehend everything that's going on. And then after that, every activity that they do for the rest of their time in the classroom goes back to that core story book or the theme for that unit. And so one of the activities that they did in the small group was that they learned more about wind. They used balloons and blew up balloons and talked about how the wind in your lung inflates the balloons. They used a blow dry tore talk about how the wind lifts different objects. They do experiments to see which objects does the wind blow and which ones they don't blow. They even do things like predictions and get to test their hypothesis. So we really use that core story book as a foundation. But then branch out into different areas of the classroom to give children just more experience.
Jose Cardenas: I realize it is a pilot project and the pilot project is not over with yet. But any sense at this point as to how things are going?
Atalaya Sergi: Well, in talking with the teachers in the classroom over the last couple of days, they just expressed to me how they have seen such growth in their children so quickly this year. They talked about children who were not speaking, who are now engaging with the volunteers. They talked about children learning their alphabet and becoming more familiar with the alphabet more quickly this year because they had that one on one. The teachers even talk would about the activities of the volunteers are bringing in and how they had not thought of that idea as a way to introduce rhyming. So they feel like it is really successful and has already begun talking about how can we make this sustainable here? And how can we grow? And that is definitely Jump Start's goal and intention in working with Maricopa County Head Start on this pilot.
Jose Cardenas: We have got the phone number for Maricopa County Head Start on the screen. Is that the best place to put people to go to get additional information about the program?
Atalaya Sergi: Yes. There are several ways they can get more information. If you are looking to volunteer and you want to spend time giving back to your community and working with the Jump Start program, please call the Maricopa County Head Start and they can tell you more about the program here. If you want to learn more about Jump Start as an organization in other ways to get involve, you can go to our website, which is WWW.Jstart.org. You can also follow us on Facebook and Twitter to find out more information. One of the things that we do annually is called Jump Start's read for the record campaign. And that's a campaign where anyone can get involved. And read with children. It's a campaign to really tell people about the importance of early childhood education. Jump Start's workings and we try to break the world record every year for the most children read the same book on the same day. It's kind of a jumping off place for people to really get involved in learning more about early childhood education.
Jose Cardenas: It's a particular significance this year because I understand this is a 20th anniversary of Jump Start.
Atalaya Sergi: This is our 20th anniversary and we are really thrilled about that this year. 20 years ago our program was conceived of and founded by four college students who had experienced working with children at a summer camp and wanted to know, how can we give children this experience all year long? And they decided to focus on early education as a place for their volunteerism because they knew that the best way to give a child a successful academic career life start is to start early in that early education portion of their life. And so we call our organization was named Jump Start because, you know, it kind of signifies the fun and energetic culture that we have, but it also is an expression of the start that we want to give children.
Jose Cardenas: I want to go back to the program you are running in Mesa right now. As I understand it, you have a significant number of English language learner students in that class.
Atalaya Sergi: Yeah, about 50% of the children that we are working with are English language learners. And we, in our program, we do research and collect data on our program to make sure that we are meeting the outcomes and giving the children the skills that they need. And we have discovered that our English language learners actually make greater gains than our English speaking children. So we are working with them just to build their English knowledge to give them vocabulary, to continue to introduce them to more and more words.
Jose Cardenas: That sounds like a great program. We are glad you are here to do this for Arizona and we hope that the program goes on.
Atalaya Sergi: Thank you so much for having us.
Jose Cardenas: Thanks for joining us. That's our show for tonight. For all of us here at "Horizonte" I'm José Cardenas. Have a good night.