4 Things We Learned at Jumpstart

by Claire Callahan and Tobi Moses
Claire Callahan is a rising senior at Connecticut College, where she is an American Studies major. Claire served as the Events Volunteer Intern for Jumpstart’s National Development team in Boston, MA. Tobi Moses is a rising sophomore at Princeton University, where she is studying Public and International Affairs. Tobi was the Princeton Internships in Civic Service (PICS) Intern supporting Jumpstart’s Operations and Program teams in Boston, MA.

As our time as summer interns at Jumpstart has now ended, we reflect on our time at Jumpstart, the lessons we’ve learned, and what we will take away from our experiences this past summer, including the four “take-aways” below.

1. The Power of a Strong Vision

Jumpstart’s commitment to its vision – working toward the day every child in America enters kindergarten prepared to succeed – resonates throughout the organization. Whether talking to Jumpstart’s COO, Jennifer Templeman, or President & CEO, Naila Bolus, one thing is clear – a powerful, deep conviction of a vision across an organization can lead amazing people to do amazing things.

2. The Importance of Communication

With offices and sites across the country, the Jumpstart network is faced with the unique challenge to keep communication open and effective across states and time zones. The National Development team alone has eight members, working in three different offices in three different cities. Meetings, discussions, debriefings, and day-to-day tasks could seem daunting, but they do it with ease, with weekly meetings, check-ins, and conference calls to make their group efforts and tasks seamless.

3. Culture Matters

An organization’s culture matters. That was how Jumpstart’s President & CEO Naila Bolus put it during one of our intern training sessions this summer. Since then, we have been racking our brains trying to come up with a word that most accurately describes Jumpstart’s culture that didn’t sound trite or oversimplified. In the end, however, we can’t think of a better way to describe it other than ‘happy.’ Jumpstart is a happy place—a very happy place actually. It is the buoyancy, joy, and energy that our co-workers brought with them every day to work that made the biggest impression on us this summer and made us proud to be members of the Jumpstart team. The happiness at Jumpstart is contagious and everyone we encountered this past summer were nothing but inclusive and genuine. We never felt uncomfortable, that our opinions as interns were devalued, or as if we were not welcome to take a seat at the table. These things sound small, but taken as a whole, Jumpstart’s open, welcoming, and happy environment helped remind us that work can cease being ‘work’ when you are happy doing it.

4. Accessible Leaders Make Happy Teams

Similar to office culture, leadership styles can make or break an organization. Interns at many offices are the bottom of the totem pole. At Jumpstart that isn’t the case. As interns we worked on real projects which we witnessed having an impact on the organization and will continue into the future. We have been able to meet and become familiar with members of the leadership team, who are accessible and form relationships with everyone. In our training sessions with Naila, we felt at ease asking questions and discussing Jumpstart’s vision, mission, and goals. The hierarchy that a leadership team could impose is nonexistent here. In our future careers, we will remember this commitment to accessibility and inclusivity.

Overall, our summer at Jumpstart helped us hone our skills and taught us what it means to work at a national nonprofit. We hope to keep Jumpstart’s core values of learning, determination, connection, joy, and kindness with us as we move along in our professional lives.

We’d like to thank everyone at Jumpstart who made our summers so meaningful and inspiring (and thank them for all the chocolate!)

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

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