“It just made such obvious good sense. If you can reach kids very early, when their brains are sponges, they will be on a better path for their entire education.”
Throughout 2019, in honor of Jumpstart’s 25th Anniversary, we will be highlighting 25 Faces of Jumpstart. This campaign celebrates the wide variety of people who have played a major role in Jumpstart’s history — our founders, volunteers from Jumpstart’s past, Jumpstart children and their families, influential donors and supporters, and more. We cannot wait to share their stories with you — how they helped shape and grow Jumpstart into what it is today, the impact that Jumpstart has had on their own lives, and their vision for the next 25 years of Jumpstart.
Over the years, Jumpstart has had the opportunity to partner with many passionate individuals who share in its mission of promoting quality early learning for all. Among the most notable is Tina Fey — accomplished author, writer, actor, producer, and filmmaker — who has made a significant impact on Jumpstart through her continued support.
One of Fey’s most memorable and groundbreaking achievements is her starring role as Liz Lemon in the award-winning television series 30 Rock (which she also created and co-wrote), but she is also well-loved for the nine seasons she spent as head writer and a performer on Saturday Night Live and for her roles in films such as Sisters, Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, Date Night, and Mean Girls, her first screenplay. She co-created the Netflix hit Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt and most recently made her Broadway debut with the musical Mean Girls, which earned 12 Tony Award nominations.
Fey attended the Jumpstart Scribbles to Novels gala in New York City in 2011. As part of the evening’s program, Gayle King interviewed Fey about her career, family, and why she chose to support Jumpstart. “It just made such obvious good sense. If you can reach kids very early, when their brains are sponges, they will be on a better path for their entire education,” Fey said.
And her support of Jumpstart didn’t end with Scribbles — Fey later took part in a special campaign with Ben & Jerry’s, in which proceeds from the sales of her namesake “Liz Lemon Greek Frozen Yogurt” benefitted Jumpstart’s programming. In an advertisement for the frozen yogurt, an animated Liz Lemon — voiced by Fey — can’t catch a break as a series of unfortunate circumstances keep her from enjoying the refreshing new lemon-flavored treat. The campaign was one of Jumpstart’s first major corporate partnerships and helped introduce Jumpstart to a huge new audience of supporters and champions. Fey remembers, “That was a fun way for people to become aware of Jumpstart. Also, I feel like I really contributed to that partnership significantly, in terms of ‘pints consumed.’”
“At a time when everyone loves to argue, the importance of Jumpstart’s mission is inarguably important.”
For Fey, the decision to support Jumpstart back in 2011 was a simple one. “Every kid deserves to start kindergarten on an equal footing with her peers.” She goes on, “At a time when everyone loves to argue, the importance of Jumpstart’s mission is inarguably important. Reading shapes our imaginations and opens our minds to the world around us. Every child should get the early childhood skills that will help him be an avid reader.”
Not only does Fey value Jumpstart’s mission, but as the youngest recipient of the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor, Fey recalls how literacy — a key pillar of the Jumpstart program — played a vital role in fueling her love of comedy at an early age. “When I was in 8th grade, I got to do an independent research project of my own choosing. I wanted to ‘study comedy,’ and the only book I found was Joe Franklin’s Encyclopedia of Comedians. I was an eighties kid reading about vaudeville stars like Fanny Brice, Moms Mabley, and Joe E. Brown — and I loved it. If I hadn’t found that book, I might have had to become a lawyer or something.”
Fey describes Jumpstart’s impact over the past 25 years as “immediate.” Thinking forward, Fey imagines that the organization could have an even larger impact in the next 25 years. “It would be great to see Jumpstart in every underserved community. It would be great for every toddler in the U.S. to have access to beautiful books to read and love and chew on.” Jumpstart is poised to pursue such big goals with people like Tina Fey helping shape the organization’s past and frame its future.
Some quotes have been edited and condensed for length and clarity.