Ethan Peritz: The Power of Caring

by Susan Werley Slater

2013 is a special year for us as it marks Jumpstart’s 20th Anniversary. In celebration of this occasion we’ve established the first-ever Jumpstart Awards. Over the course of the year we pored over hundreds of qualified candidates, finally selecting four exemplary individuals: a supporter, a legislative champion, a Corps member, and an alumnus.

Each of these awards is based on Jumpstart’s core values – kindness, determination, connection, and learning. Award winners were selected by judging panels composed of Jumpstart staff, alumni, Corps members, board members, and supporters. We thank them for their leadership and expertise in selecting this year’s winners.

This is the final blog post in a four part series highlighting Jumpstart’s 20th Anniversary Award recipients.

Serving in low-income communities, providing children a steadfast mentor and the skills they need to be successful in kindergarten, our Corps members are true change agents and the pioneers of Jumpstart’s mission. The “Learning” Award was created to honor a Jumpstart Corps member who fosters learning and delivers exemplary service to Jumpstart’s children and families.

We put much thought into awarding this first-ever Corps member honor. From a group of 50 of his peers, we selected Ethan Peritz, a Corps member from Tufts University. Ethan was a true stand out. His story demonstrates his ability to both learn from his experiences and to use those lessons to become a better teacher. For Ethan, “Jumpstart is no longer a job. It is an opportunity for me to become a great teacher, to influence my peers meaningfully and give them the tools to become great teachers, and to find solutions that enable all of the children entrusted to me to realize the potential that they have, even at four years old.”

Ethan captured the audience as he spoke at this year’s Scribbles to Novels fundraising gala in Boston. He spoke of his partner child, a survivor of the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, and their initial communication barriers. The crowd responded with tears and laughter as Ethan explained how the two found common ground by incorporating musical qualities and rhythmic beats into their story time in order to make reading more engaging. Teaching is all about flexibility, and this was yet another example of Ethan changing his style when needed.

In Ethan’s words, “Jumpstart has made me a significantly more competent and confident teacher; I can view challenges as opportunities both microscopically and macroscopically, and I have had the training to support meaningful problem solving initiatives. Jumpstart has affected my character, giving me perspective on educational inequity and the individual steps that people like me can take to solve the injustices of a broken system. Jumpstart requires me to reflect on my conduct; I understood quickly after joining that lazy people have no place in the business of teaching children, and I refuse to accept the choice of lethargy from myself or from any of my team members. Jumpstart has broadened my appreciation of and respect for community, from my fellow classmates to the professionals in the Jumpstart office to the amazing families in Somerville, Cambridge, and Boston. And, perhaps most significantly, Jumpstart has shown me the power of caring. People who care can and will get things done.

Ethan, whose term of service with Jumpstart ended in the spring of 2013, was an admirable Corps member and genuinely committed to Jumpstart’s children and families. He served three full years with Jumpstart as a Corps member and a Team Leader. Ethan’s service to our nation’s children has not stopped with Jumpstart. He is now embarking on a term of service with Teach For America as a Corps member teaching math to second graders in Fall River, Massachusetts. Ethan embodies all the qualities of a first-rate Jumpstart Corps member, and we are proud and delighted to give him this honor.

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