One year ago today, I joined Jumpstart as President & CEO after more than 20 years of experience in the nonprofit sector. The greatest motivator for me during my years as a nonprofit executive has been the mission – the bigger and bolder the mission the better. Jumpstart's mission inspired me to take this new career path and I’m thrilled to be part of changing the face of early education.
Reflecting on my one-year anniversary, I wanted to share five key things I’ve learned during my time at Jumpstart.
1. Great potential exists in every child.
“Truly wonderful the mind of a child is.” So says the great philosopher, Yoda. But these days a simple zip-code can determine whether a child succeeds or fails. That is fundamentally wrong and unacceptable. Our job as a society must be to unlock the treasure, remove the barriers, and nurture the possibilities. Somewhere amongst today’s pre-school children sits our future president, the next Steve Jobs, a scientist…a parent. If we care about our future, we need to invest in the success of every child.
2. Learning lasts a lifetime.
It seems the more I learn, the more I need to learn. Of course learning has to start early. Between birth and five years, children’s brains are developing at a faster rate than at any other time in their lives. We need to engage children with intention to create rich and meaningful learning opportunities for them. But we also need to commit to continuous improvement for ourselves, to build new knowledge and skills, take risks and learn from our mistakes. Eleanor Roosevelt’s famous advice, “Do one thing every day that scares you,” has motivated me to tackle new subjects, change jobs, complete a triathlon, become a parent. With each endeavor I hope to practice self-reflection, welcome honest feedback, grow, and maximize my potential.
3. Connection is everything.
Even with all the great technological advances in our world, there is nothing as powerful as the personal connection between people. It gets more and more challenging to make profound connections as the pace and complexity of life increase. But as a mother of three young girls, and as the CEO of an organization focused on educating young children, I know that the adult-child connection—whether through reading, playing, talking, or cuddling—is an essential ingredient for learning. I see these connections every day at Jumpstart. We engage and train college students and community volunteers to serve young children, and through these strong relationships and partnerships we create results larger than any individual effort.
4. Transformation requires determination.
Big, bold visions are inspiring. They are also possible. We are surrounded by examples of groundbreaking achievement in combating disease, alleviating poverty, revolutionizing technology, and more. The common thread in these accomplishments is a relentless commitment to mission. With so much work yet to be done, we must work with a sense of urgency and impatience, face obstacles with courage and conviction, and find creative solutions to challenges. At Jumpstart we envision the day when every child enters school prepared to succeed. We must pursue our goals with focus and drive, and stay dissatisfied until that day arrives.
5. Without joy, our work loses meaning.
Let’s face it, what we’re trying to do is hard. The reality we are struggling to change—in my case the early education crisis—is daunting, complex and unjust. Is it really possible that half of all children from low-income neighborhoods start kindergarten two full years behind their wealthier peers? The statistics can be numbing. But if we embrace our passion to make a difference in children’s lives, approach our work with energy and optimism, find opportunities to laugh with one another, and bring a playful spirit to help children cultivate a love of learning, then we are doing more than just working for a cause.
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