by Leah Brunson
We recently launched the 2012 Jumpstart annual report, which captures our focus on children, our unstoppable momentum and our drive to serve preschool children across the country. In the report, our executive team—President & CEO Naila Bolus, Chief Operating Officer Paul Leech, VP of External Relations Joy Errico Seusing, VP of Strategic Advancement Meredith Hamilton, and Chief Program Officer Susan Werley Slater—sat down to answer a few questions about why we do what we do and why it matters in the world. The conversation revealed a lot about the passion, drive, and commitment the entire Jumpstart family brings to our work.
Naila: In this country of opportunity it is simply not fair that some children’s destinies are determined by their zip code. Jumpstart is focused on the right issues at the right time and has a proven program that works.
Paul: Jumpstart addresses a need in a way that benefits everyone—from the children being served to the communities in which we work; from parents and extended families to the volunteers who learn and gain so much from their time with Jumpstart.
Susan: At Jumpstart, we never “settle.” We are constantly trying to be better and move the needle for our most vulnerable children. Every time I visit a session, I am reminded about how much potential each child has. At Jumpstart, we work to help children realize that potential.
Meredith: I learned in business school that education reform is the best solution for solving social ills. That, and the fact that Jumpstart is aligned with my personal core values. I believe the work we do truly changes lives.
Joy: I’m the mother of two small children. I’ve seen firsthand how much better children do in school when they enter kindergarten ready. This work is really personal to me. I believe all children should have the same opportunity to succeed. Jumpstart helps make that happen.
Who do you stand for and stand behind?
Meredith: The kids we serve and the staff and program partners who make our program possible.
Susan: The teachers who show up to work every day and are always there for our children.
Who are the heroes in the work you do?
Paul: The staff, who give so many additional hours to ensure that Jumpstart can serve the children and their communities so effectively. The Corps members and volunteers, who commit so many hours. And the parents who often work two or three jobs to provide as best they can for their children.
What obstacles stand in the way to success? Do you overcome them?
Naila: Resources! The need is enormous, but Jumpstart has set a clear strategic path to serving more children, developing more leaders and teachers, and advocating for high quality early education for all children. What we need is the sustainable financial support to help us maintain our standard quality program, deepen our presence in existing communities, and grow to scale in new markets.
Joy: When people think about education, they tend to think about K-12—that’s where most of the work is done; that’s where much of the funding goes. But we know that the years before kindergarten are critical in the development of a child. These years are essential in getting children ready for school, both in terms of equipping them with the necessary language and literacy skills, but also in giving them the social skills that will help them thrive in school.
Describe a world in which your work is no longer necessary. What would it look like?
Naila: All children thriving. There would be no discernible readiness gap among children of different economic means. All children would have a fair chance at success; all children would be recognized for their potential.
Susan: My dream is that we value young children and give all children the things they need to succeed. I look forward to the day the US has universal preschool for all, to the day we support systems for families, and an educational system that is inclusive.
What about the Jumpstart story inspires people to action?
Naila: It speaks to the core American value of fairness. It is based on a simple concept that everyone can understand and it resonates at a deep emotional level—behind every statistic is a beautiful child, full of wonder, curiosity, and potential. And Jumpstart works. People want to be part of a solution and Jumpstart inspires them to pitch in and make a difference.
Paul: The stories about how we change people’s lives. Like the Corps member who joins college to be a celebrity journalist and changes his major to become a first grade teacher. Or the child who cannot hold a pen or open a book, yet who joins the Gifted program four years later. There are thousands of these stories and they make everyone want to do more.
Download the full 2012 annual report here.