You are the face and the heart of Jumpstart. To make sure that you can serve local children and communities, it requires a lot of behind-the-scenes people with varied skill sets and talents. In our next few installments of the Jumpstart Member Newsletter, we will introduce you to some of our awesome behind-the-scenes Jumpstart team members. You may be surprised by their responsibilities and how they came to be a part of the Jumpstart family!
Meet Charlie Arreola, one of our Jumpstart Development Managers. As a Development Manager, Charlie builds relationships with funders, community-based organizations, elected officials, and others. These partnerships are all focused on Jumpstart having the resources, funding, and support to deliver on our vision — that every child in America enters kindergarten prepared to succeed. Learn more about how Charlie, who most recently worked in politics, came to find a home at Jumpstart.
Tell us a little bit about yourself and why you are passionate about education equity?
I was born and raised in the community of MacArthur Park in Los Angeles, which, unfortunately, was notorious in the late 80s and early 90s for a lot of crime, gang activity, and violence. During high school, my buddies and I had to walk two miles from home to school, and one day we decided to count the number of different gang territories we had to cross in order to get to Belmont High School. We counted up to seven. Today, it’s crazy to think that as 14-year-olds, we had to learn how to navigate worlds and situations that could put our lives in danger and that we may not have been prepared for; things that some adults will never experience. That was just our way of life and a reality we had to face to simply get to school. Once we got to Belmont, our school had over 5,500 students enrolled and only one college counselor. This showed me that we weren’t being set up for success and that the system wasn’t investing in all of us. I had many friends who were driven, passionate, and intelligent, but barriers like family obligations, self-doubt, and citizenship status got in the way of them pursuing their dreams. There are so many barriers that exist in our communities that have nothing to do with someone’s ability, potential, or academic aptitude, and that is very frustrating. I knew that, unfortunately, there were other kids out there with similar barriers and that’s why I decided to enter our line of work.
What brought you to Jumpstart?
After college, I moved to Washington, DC, to work in education because I could not believe that students in our nation’s capitol had some of the lowest reading and math scores across the country. While in DC, I worked at CentroNía, a community-based nonprofit focused on providing family support services and quality educational opportunities to families in the neighborhood of Columbia Heights. I oversaw family engagement for our afterschool tutoring program that served students from kindergarten to 12th grade. Like Jumpstart, our tutors were AmeriCorps members. Seeing our students grow through the tutoring program and our Corps members developing in how they facilitated sessions, was so impactful. As part of my onboarding, I had to facilitate sessions with a partner child; his name was Emerson. Emerson was in kindergarten and I was helping him learn how to sound out words. The word was cat, so we were sounding out /c/, /a/, /t/. He went from sounding out the letters to blending the sounds and then confidently reading the word “cat!” Seeing his face light up and celebrate with excitement is a memory I will always carry with me. To remind me about our work and the impact it can have, I have a small post-it note with Emerson’s name on the top right corner of my computer screen.
I know that reaching kids from underserved communities before kindergarten is going to set them up so that there are less educational barriers in place as they get older and progress through the education system.
I’m passionate about our work because I’ve lived through experiences that make it clear to me that the only reason I’m able to live the life I live is because I was able to go to college and open my eyes to the many things outside of my community. I want to make sure that kids in our communities, like MacArthur Park, are given the tools to choose to go to college. So many don’t have that option because they haven’t been equipped with the skills to succeed in higher education. What I have learned from my time in the classroom and working with different age levels is that “interventions” at the middle school and high school level are too late. We must start earlier and provide enriching opportunities to support our children. I know that reaching kids from underserved communities before kindergarten is going to set them up so that there are less educational barriers in place as they get older and progress through the education system.
What was your career path?
After graduating from the University of California, Santa Barbara, I moved to Washington, DC, where I taught middle school and high school social studies in Columbia Heights, a prominent Latino community in DC. After teaching, I started working at CentroNía where I oversaw family engagement for students in our tutoring program. In 2012, I packed my bags and moved from DC to Las Vegas, Nevada, to become a field organizer on President Obama’s re-election campaign. I served as an organizer in northeast Las Vegas, which houses notable Latino and African American communities. After the election, I started working for an education advocacy organization, Students First, which helped pass laws to improve K-12 (kindergarten to 12th grade) public education across the country. I oversaw the organizing department that was active in 17 states around the country. I finally moved back to the community that raised me, MacArthur Park, in 2016. I took a job working for a citywide elected official where I oversaw Legislative Affairs. I knew going into this role that education issues were covered by the school board, not the City of Los Angeles. But I made this decision deliberately because I had a mini quarter-life crisis where I thought to myself, “All you’ve done is education and if you want to be more marketable for future jobs, you need to expand your work experience.” Through this role, I soon realized that I was fighting against my passion for improving the lives of communities and kids through education. Everything I believe is rooted in making sure that our kids and our communities are equipped with the skills to create positive and lasting changes through education equity, which is how I arrived at Jumpstart.
How did your previous jobs prepare you for your work at Jumpstart?
Fundraising is all about relationship building and effective storytelling. My previous jobs have given me the opportunity to work with children, work in the community, and gather support for great causes. Working as an educator and organizer equipped me with the skills to raise money. I love meeting new people, identifying what people are passionate about, connecting folks with similar visions, and hosting events. These experiences and traits set me up well to build relationships and raise funds for Jumpstart from foundations, corporations, and high-net-worth individuals. People care about the work that we’re doing, but we need to educate them about Jumpstart and its ability to impact current and future children. We need to share the successes we facilitate and have potential donors see our members and children in the classroom, which is why I love having the opportunity to do site visits with potential donors.
What do you enjoy doing when you’re not working?
I enjoy cycling; I love riding my bike. For the last three years, I have participated in an event called AIDS/LifeCycle. It’s a 545-mile bike ride from San Francisco to Los Angeles over seven days. We raise funds and awareness for the prevention of HIV and AIDS. I want to be a part of making a difference in this issue that disproportionately impacts communities of color. So, if I’m not at a community event, you’ll catch me on my bike, training to take on the 545-mile challenge in June.
Charlie joined Jumpstart in August 2018. He has a bachelors of arts in political science and education from the University of California, Santa Barbara.