Service that Makes a Difference

by Fredner Fortune

In honor of Black History Month, we’re highlighting Fredner Fortune, an African American Jumpstart Alum who is changing the face of our youth through service.

Fredner Fortune is the Project Coordinator for the NYC Department of Youth & Community Development, an organization that supports New York City youth and their families by funding a wide range of high-quality youth and community development programs. Fredner is responsible for creating, operating, and securing funding for boys & girls basketball leagues throughout NYC. In order to provide the program to the children at no cost, Fredner partners with companies, such as Nike and other community based organizations for financial aid.

My senior year at St. John’s University was undoubtedly my most influential college year because of my experience as a Jumpstart Corps member. As I look back at the wonderful memories of my Jumpstart days, I become overwhelmed just thinking about all of the children that I had the opportunity to serve. I think not only about the difference that I made in their lives, but also about the difference that they have made in mine.

One of my favorite memories as a Corps member was during story time when I would read to the children in my classroom and their eyes would light up with each turn of the page. Every story meant something different to each child. As they became more comfortable with me, they loved sharing stories about their personal lives. Whether it was about a pet they had, a time that they were happy or sad, a favorite food, or a family member, I saw it as a milestone when the children would eagerly share a story of their own.

As a college student, I witnessed first-hand the importance of reading early-on with a child. It was truly amazing to be a part of this stage in their lives; watching as they grew, experiencing their natural curiosity, sharing stories, remembering past stories read to them, and letting their imaginations run free.

As Jumpstart Corps members, when we were in the classroom, we’d forget about everything else going on in our own lives and were fully engaged with the children we served. We followed a rigorous and intentional curriculum, while balancing the many demands of college life. Despite the rigor, the enthusiasm of my fellow Corps members was truly infectious.

The children loved Jumpstart so much that they had a difficult time choosing which center time activity to participate in because they wanted to do them all! I loved watching as they quickly learned new vocabulary words, identified word patterns, and so much more because of the sessions my Corps worked so hard to create. The moment when I felt we were truly making a difference was when the preschool teachers began to follow a similar structure to the Jumpstart curriculum even after we finished our session.

Serving as a Jumpstart Corps member allowed me to see first-hand the importance of building children’s language and literacy skills during the early years. Every child is unique and if you take the time to get to know her, you’ll find the words and tactics to motivate and promote her learning.

My Jumpstart service influenced me to choose the career path of working with children in low-income areas and providing them with new opportunities. Every day, I coach and mentor kids by getting them involved in extracurricular activities, such as sports clinics. Simply put: I love my job.

My experiences with Jumpstart will forever remain with me and it will continue to be the forefront of my teaching methods for youth.

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

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