Coming Full Circle: Jumpstart and Ramapo for Children

by Charlotte Hsu

Charlotte Hsu is the Communications Manager at Ramapo for Children.

Many of you may not know this, but Jumpstart traces its roots to another nonprofit organization: Ramapo for Children. The four founders of Jumpstart—Aaron Lieberman, Rebecca Weintraub, David Carmel, and Jordan Meranus—met at a summer camp run by Ramapo while they were in college. Today, Ramapo is looking to come full circle and recruit a new generation of talented staff members like those who work in Jumpstart’s Corps.

At Camp Ramapo, Jumpstart’s four founders met as counselors, working with children who faced a wide range of social, emotional, or learning challenges. There, they took inspiration from Ramapo’s message: that all children seek to learn, to feel valued, and to experience success. Ramapo’s expertise lies in teaching our staff members the skills they need to manage challenging behaviors effectively and build relationships with children in need. This training, and the experience of working with campers at Ramapo, inspired Jumpstart’s founders to continue working to make a difference in children’s lives after they left camp.

“There would be no Jumpstart without Ramapo,” Aaron Lieberman said. “Working there sparked the vision for Jumpstart. We also used the same idea as Ramapo in that we worked with bright, motivated young people who wanted to be of service to their communities, and gave them a taste of what it’s like to work with kids.”

Ramapo serves children and the adults who work with them through direct service youth programs and training programs for educators, youth workers, and parents. We work on behalf of kids who face obstacles to learning, so that they may succeed in the classroom, at home, and in life. Ramapo began as a summer camp and has since exported its approach to schools and youth service organizations throughout New York City, Newark, NJ, Washington, DC, and New Haven, CT. Today, Ramapo’s portfolio of programs and services includes:

  • Camp Ramapo: A residential summer camp in Rhinebeck that serves over 550 children with a range of cognitive disabilities and behavioral challenges, including autism spectrum disorders.
  • Ramapo Retreats: Short-term, adventure-based experiences for young people and educators that give participants a greater appreciation of their own potential, and strategies for communication, teamwork, and leadership. Ramapo works with over 150 schools and agencies each year, serving over 8,000 participants.
  • Ramapo Training: A professional development program that provides educators, youth workers, and parents with tools to manage difficult behaviors and support success. In 2012, Ramapo served more than 300 schools and agencies and trained over 10,000 educators, youth workers, and parents.
  • The Staff Assistant Experience: A residential transition-to-independence program for young adults aged 18 to 25 who seek independence, but have been unable to overcome the challenges associated with their disabilities.

Ramapo is always on the lookout for great young people to work as summer counselors and year-round staff members. Just like Jumpstart, we rely on compassionate, driven young adults who want to work with children who face challenges.

For those who work with us, Ramapo provides an unmatched professional opportunity. Our counselors and year-round staff get hands-on experience, the same training given to more than 10,000 teachers and youth-service professionals each year, and the chance to earn up to 9 hours of college credit. Ramapo staff alumni have gone on to be teachers, psychologists, social workers, organization directors, and even founders of national service nonprofits—like Jumpstart!

Reflecting on his own experience working at Ramapo, Aaron said, “The opportunity to make a difference, do meaningful work, be part of an amazing community, and to develop and grow as a leader in a relatively short period of time are what make Ramapo special. I would encourage any young person interested in working with children and families to work there.”

Jumpstart’s four founders received their training and inspiration at Ramapo—and now, we would like to recruit some of our next generation of staff members from Jumpstart! Together, Jumpstart and Ramapo can train future leaders in the challenging and rewarding work of serving children in need.

Ramapo is recruiting young people aged 16-23 to work as summer counselors, and recent college graduates to join the year-round, residential team at our Rhinebeck campus. For more information, please click here. To contact us, email

Together, we can help all children build the key language and literacy skills they need to take on the world.

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