Providing a ‘Jumpstart’ Toward Early Education

Ladies in sequined cocktail dresses and floor-sweeping gowns scurried about B.C.’s Cavern on the Green making sure that decorations were in place.
Gentlemen in slacks and ties hurriedly arranged platters of salads, chicken wings and rice donated by Outback Steakhouse, while other students arranged crackers, cheese, pita chips and hummus donated by Trader Joe’s. Although running late, students and guests eagerly anticipated UC Irvine’s first Jumpstart banquet.
Jumpstart is an early childhood outreach program geared toward helping preschoolers in low-income areas build literacy in English and develop social skills. The goal is to provide children with an early foundation for success in education and life.
College students are trained and paired with preschoolers in a one-on-one partnership that lasts for one full academic year.
‘This is our first banquet,’ said fourth-year biological sciences major Marie Tran. ‘It’s an evening to celebrate this past year’s success and award preschool teachers, whom we’ve worked with, and Jumpstart team leaders, who coordinate events for the members.’
The evening continued with hip-hop music and desserts, from chocolate candy cakes to tiramisu. The academic year for Jumpstart was complete and 300 hours had been spent assisting children.
UCI is the only UC campus to have a Jumpstart program, which was introduced in 2003. While Jumpstart acts as a community service organization, it also provides college students with hands-on teaching experience.
College students can take Jumpstart as a course that will count toward upper-division course credit or as work study.
‘For the students who are taking Jumpstart for course credit, they can get upper-division units in either psychology or education,’ said Jennifer Nguyen, the site manager of UCI’s Jumpstart program and former preschool teacher.
‘This year, it has also helped in the fieldwork with education and social sciences. Jumpstart is also the only course at UCI that will allow students to work at a preschool at the end of the academic year, since they will have four units each three quarters that count toward early education units,’ Nguyen said.
Before working with preschoolers, Jumpstart members must undergo various training workshops and enroll in the weekly Jumpstart Pre-K Education course taught by cognitive sciences professor Virginia Mann.
UCI students work with the Unified School Districts of Santa Ana and Newport-Mesa and participate in morning programs called ‘Classroom Assistant Time’ or after-school sessions.
‘CAT is different than sessions because you work with many students at a time,’ said Thanh Tran, a third-year psychology major, who anticipates becoming a fourth-grade teacher. ‘I’ve always enjoyed interacting with children, but this program allowed me to learn how to interact with children in the classroom setting.’
After-school sessions allow a college student to work individually with a preschooler for the entire academic year.
‘We’re hoping that our college students will want to pursue early childhood education, if not just teaching in general,’ said Jennifer Nguyen, the site manager of UCI’s Jumpstart program and former preschool teacher.
College students can take Jumpstart as a course that will count toward upper-division course credit or as work study.
‘For the students who are taking Jumpstart for course credit, they can get upper-division units in either psychology or education,’ Nguyen said.