“I believe we can contribute to a society where people stand up for each other, recognizing that individual progress is inextricably linked to the progress of others and community prosperity bolsters the well-being of everyone.”
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.
Twenty-five years ago, Dianne Morales got a phone call from some friends she’d met while working at a summer camp in upstate New York. They laid out an ambitious plan – they were creating an early education organization to help preschool children in underserved neighborhoods get the support they needed to succeed in kindergarten. Did she want to join them?
“As a young girl growing up in a low-income community of color, I’d become aware that we didn’t all have access to the same opportunities. I’d been fortunate enough to attend decent schools, have adults in my life who looked out for me, and to access resources many of my peers had not. During my college years, while working as a camp counselor at Camp Ramapo Anchorage, it became clear that many of the ‘disadvantaged’ children we worked with came from the same zip code as me. And yet their trajectories were markedly different from my own. I couldn’t help but wonder, ‘Why me?’ Then that question transformed into ‘Why NOT them?’ And so, there was no hesitation when the opportunity to respond to that question presented itself. I’d seen up close the difference that individualized support could provide for children, families and communities.”
Morales became a founding Board Member for Jumpstart, and shortly thereafter, the organization’s founding Chief Operating Officer, making an indelible mark on the organization in both these roles. Today, her relationship with Jumpstart has taken on yet another form: Jumpstart now serves children in the Universal Pre-K programs that Morales operates in the South Bronx through her role as the Executive Director and Chief Executive Officer of Phipps Neighborhoods.
“Jumpstart is grounded in the notion that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, that opportunity is created when we each take responsibility not just for ourselves, but for our neighbors and for our communities.”
Thinking back over the last 25 years, Morales reflects on how powerful it is to think about the number of children and volunteers whose lives have been touched by Jumpstart. “Jumpstart is grounded in the notion that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, that opportunity is created when we each take responsibility, not just for ourselves, but for our neighbors and for our communities. We may represent just a small ripple in the resistance, but ripples can turn the tide.”
Thinking forward, Morales sees Jumpstart’s impact growing even larger: “Through this work, I believe we can contribute to a society where people stand up for each other, recognizing that individual progress is inextricably linked to the progress of others and community prosperity bolsters the well-being of everyone. I believe that is ultimately what Jumpstart works toward. And that, I believe, is greater than any single contribution any one of us can make alone.”
Some quotes have been edited and condensed for length and clarity.