We often talk about how Jumpstart programs help prepare young children for success in kindergarten in beyond, but our program also benefits the college students and community members who serve in Jumpstart classrooms. Many of Jumpstart’s Corps members serve through the AmeriCorps program, a volunteer and service organization that helps college students gain invaluable work experience and earn funds for their education while serving in the community. For AmeriCorps Week, we wanted to share a story from one of our AmeriCorps members: Jasmin Salas served as a Jumpstart Corps member and Team Leader at UCLA from 2014-2016. She currently serves as the Jumpstart Community Engagement Coordinator in Southern California, where her role is to organize and recruit volunteers for community events designed to spread the love of reading to children all over Los Angeles.
My name is Jasmin Salas and I was born in Los Angeles, where the cost of living is extremely high and the line between haves and have nots is clear cut. Poverty isn’t only sleeping in the streets and not having enough to eat. Poverty, at least for me growing up, was watching my mom work 10 hours a day and still only having enough just to get by. Poverty was not being able to play at the park because that’s where the local gang members hung out. Poverty was questioning whether or not I could go to college even though I earned straight A’s.
Fortunately, I grew up and was the first in my family to go to college. I owe it to a lot of people, but also to books. As a child, I read everything I could get my hands on – even cereal boxes. I loved and enjoyed my early years in school and I think that made a huge difference for me. I believe strongly that fostering an early love of learning and literacy can change children’s lives for the better, especially those growing up in neighborhoods like those I grew up in. I knew that I wanted to help children, and I set out for college with that in mind.
When I started at UCLA as a transfer student, I found Jumpstart and it was a day that changed my life forever. I never thought I could have an opportunity as meaningful and thought provoking, and one that would also help me financially. It was a dream come true!
Jumpstart and AmeriCorps offer service roles for college students working directly with preschool students in low-income communities. I served 12-15 hours a week leading sessions in a preschool class, making creative materials for children, and facilitating team planning meetings. I was able to learn a valuable skill set serving with a team of like-minded individuals, 20+ inquisitive preschool students, and program managers that helped me develop professionally at every step. I was able to earn money throughout the year to help support myself while I was in college, as well as a Segal AmeriCorps Educational Award at the end of my service that helped me pay off my student loans. I thank Jumpstart and AmeriCorps for helping me give back to my community, and giving me so much in return.
Working with children who came from places like I did gave me the passion to do everything with love. I now have the lens and experience necessary to continue pursuing a service-minded career, and I have Jumpstart and all the wonderful people I’ve met to thank for that. I’ve learned that service never ends – because of my time with AmeriCorps I will always be looking for ways to take action. I will give my time, my knowledge, and my love, to make this world a better place for myself and those around me.
Do you have a story about your experience with AmeriCorps to share? Use #AmeriCorpsWorks and share your story, photos, and memories online all week to help show why AmeriCorps matters. Learn how else you can get involved on the AmeriCorps Week 2017 website, or follow @AmeriCorps on social media.