Alumni Spotlight: Esmeralda Lara, Jennifer Vang, and Regina Prum

This story originally appeared in the Jumpstart Fresno State University Chapter’s Alumni Connection. Our alumni spotlight series highlights stories from former Jumpstart Corps members as they reflect on their time with Jumpstart and discuss how the experience has served them in their current careers. Do you have a story to share? Want to make sure that you don’t miss any important stories or news for alumni? Join the Jumpstart Alumni Network to connect with fellow alum, stay connected to Jumpstart, and find new ways to stay involved in early education.

Esmeralda Lara (Corps member and Team Leader, 2002-06), Jennifer Vang (Corps member, 2004-05), and Regina Prum (Corps member and Student Assistant, 2004-07) served together as AmeriCorps members on one of Jumpstart Fresno’s Kings Canyon PM team, during the 2005-06 program year. All three members have become teachers and have remained friends over the years!

What are some of your memories of your Jumpstart experience? 

Esmeralda: I remember learning a lot from the teachers in the classrooms, as I did not know anything about teaching. I would learn to mimic their style. There were a lot of good classroom management strategies I learned, like how to keep learning fun for the children. Of course the friendships we establish with our team members, as well.

Jennifer: It was a very tumultuous time for me, and the lasting friendships I made with my team really kept me going.

Regina: Just like the others, the friendships we make with others were important, becoming very close with others on the team (almost like family). Also, we would always remind ourselves that our work in Jumpstart is “for the kids.” That saying stays with us today, working with colleagues in education.

Describe your Career path.

Esmeralda: I was a psychology major during Jumpstart, until my second year, when I changed to a deaf education major, which I completed for my bachelor’s degree. I then went on to Fresno’s Teaching Credential Program and was hired to teach following my student teaching, and have been teaching for 10 years. I am currently teaching seventh grade English at Sequoia Middle School in Southeast Fresno.

Jennifer: After Jumpstart, I completed the Credential Program and was hired to teach kindergarten in Sanger, CA. I really enjoy working with younger children. I am currently teaching second grade at Lincoln Elementary School in Sanger.

Regina: I worked as an assistant at Greenberg Elementary School, in an after school program in Southeast Fresno. I finished my Credential Program and was desperate for a job (this was during the recession), as well as providing for two children! I got involved in Bethesda Lutheran Communities, supporting developmentally challenged adults, when I received a call from Fresno Unified about teaching (in 2012). Everyone was so encouraging for me to go on and become a teacher. It will be six years of teaching for me this year. I also taught at Homan Elementary School my first three years, then returned to Southeast Fresno to teach at Storey Elementary (this will be my third year there).

My experience in Jumpstart definitely helped prepare me. It gave me more confidence in myself, especially being in front of others.

How did your Jumpstart experience enhance or change your current career path?

Jennifer: My experience in Jumpstart definitely helped prepare me. It gave me more confidence in myself, especially being in front of others. As mentioned before, I was able to make genuine friendships with others on my team.

Regina: It was great to familiarize myself with lesson plans (created for Jumpstart sessions) and objectives for the activities. I also found myself as a Poster Maker!

Tell us about some of the skills you learned in your Jumpstart experience and how you may have used those skills in subsequent positions.

Esmeralda: As a Team Leader, I learned to prepare to work with other adults. For Fresno Unified, I have been able to help mentor new teachers over the years. I was also exposed to the administrative side of things.

Jennifer: I learned general preparation for work: how to be a professional, organization skills, and time management. That was helpful for becoming a new teacher because you learn that you are responsible for your own actions (to be prepared to support the children in the classroom). You also learn how you are interdependent with each other.

Regina: Learning about teamwork was valuable. We were fortunate to have a very good team!

Advice for Current CMs

Esmeralda: I wish someone had told me to nurture the relationship with the team. It happened for the three of us. Also, remember the time you have in the classroom, and be flexible with learning.

Regina: Just remember: “It’s for the kids.” That is why you are there.

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

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