Each month we’ll be highlighting a Jumpstart preschool partner as part of our new blog series, Partners in Action. Jumpstart preschool partners vary, including Head Start centers, private and public preschools, early childhood programs at community centers, and even family childcare programs. Teams of Jumpstart volunteers serve in preschool partners’ classrooms twice a week, leading activities that enhance early language, literacy, and social-emotional skills, and providing personalized attention for each child in the room.
In the Elmwood neighborhood of Providence, Rhode Island, sits Beautiful Beginnings, a child care center that has been serving local families for 19 years. Beautiful Beginnings supports children from as early as six weeks to pre-kindergarten, preparing them for success in school later on. With a history of serving the local community, it’s no surprise that this family-owned child care center is filled with children eager to learn and families excited to be involved. The center invites families to “Stay and Play” events each month — an opportunity for families to visit their children’s classrooms for a whole day, see what their children are learning, and spend more time with their children’s friends, teachers, and with the other families in the class.
Jumpstart has been serving at Beautiful Beginnings for over 10 years and is so well-integrated into the community that the center’s students know Jumpstart from a young age and look forward to their chance to participate when they reach preschool time. “It’s almost like folklore here; the Jumpstart members come in and they have their Jumpstart shirts on. All the kids know the Jumpstart shirts, and the excitement is passed down through the school. The younger children see Jumpstart working with the older classes, and they get very excited knowing they’ll eventually get to work with them too!”
Khadija Lewis Khan is the founding director of Beautiful Beginnings, and she recognizes the incredible impact Jumpstart has had on the children that come through her center. The school’s curriculum already supports the children’s language, literacy, and social-emotional skills, and she loves that the twice weekly Jumpstart sessions provide opportunities to extend children’s knowledge and understanding with new activities and lessons.
“Our main goal is to provide children with the foundation they need to be successful in school and in life by introducing them to different opportunities and experiences. Language and literacy are a big piece of our work here because they are a foundation for learning, a foundation for so many other things as the students get older. Jumpstart really intersects with our goals to support our kids in language and literacy.” And it’s not just Jumpstart’s language and literacy support that helps the center work towards its goals for children; Khan shares how valuable Jumpstart’s social-emotional support is for the children at her center too.
“Problem solving, working in small groups, and working on projects – these are important goals at Beautiful Beginnings. We want kids to know they’re loved and cared for, but also how to solve problems and have the language to work with a friend.”
With Jumpstart in the classroom, the children are given additional one-on-one support and attention, providing them with more opportunities to discover the joys of learning, build their self-confidence, and practice their problem-solving and relationship-building skills together. Khan has noticed how Jumpstart members model and support these skills for children, helping them learn how to come up with a fair solution, be patient, and wait their turn. “If there’s a limited number of supplies, they’ll engage the kids in figuring out how to solve that problem. ‘Three of you want these markers, but we only have two. What should we do?’ They trust that the kids can come up with a good solution, and they model how to do it.” Khan and her teachers have seen improvements in their students’ literacy skills and patience, whether it’s taking turns during a game or problem solving as a group.
Jessica Martinez, a preschool teacher at Beautiful Beginnings sums up what she’s seen: “The impact that Jumpstart has on children is unbelievable. Children learn through relationships, and the ways that the Jumpstart team members build bonds, it really touches the children’s hearts. I am thankful for the relationships that the Jumpstart students have built with our students.”
Jumpstart brings a vibrant energy to the school. While developing strong relationships with their partner children, Jumpstart Corps members serve as another reminder for the children at Beautiful Beginnings that learning is fun and interesting. At the end of each year, the Corps members plan a graduation ceremony to celebrate a great year of learning, and both Corps members and children are sad to say goodbye to each other.
And the community atmosphere at Beautiful Beginnings does not end when sessions conclude. Holly Hernandez, one of the two Jumpstart site managers at the University of Rhode Island, has seen the relationship between Jumpstart and the center deepen and grow over the years. “The kids are so excited to have Jumpstart every year. The teachers call me to say that they miss us when we’re gone! We have the same teachers each year and they are so supportive; they love working with us, and it shows because they’re so willing to help out.”
At Beautiful Beginnings, Jumpstart makes a lasting impression on the children, and the children impact the Jumpstart Corps members in return. The Corps members not only build strong bonds with their partner children, but they truly love being in the classroom. “It’s refreshing to see a new generation of teachers that see the importance of literacy and learning,” says preschool teacher Ms. Cibil. “We love Jumpstart!”