“I use the lessons from my volunteer experience at Jumpstart as inspiration every day to advocate for the less fortunate people in our communities and make sure that educators – and their students – have the resources they need to succeed.”
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.
In 2004, when she first started college at Tufts University in Medford, Massachusetts, Tram Nguyen envisioned a course load of pre-med classes and eventually becoming a pediatrician. Knowing how much she enjoyed working with children, when she heard about a volunteer program that would allow her to serve in local preschool classrooms, helping young children develop language, literacy, and social-emotional skills, she eagerly jumped at the opportunity. “I was excited to volunteer with the Jumpstart kids in order to help them learn and prepare for their upcoming school years, while also building positive, healthy relationships. I hoped that this experience would make a difference in these children’s lives by showing them that the classroom is a sanctuary for learning, no matter the realities that they might live with outside of the classroom.”
Tram has some personal experience with finding sanctuary inside the classroom. She is a first-generation Vietnamese-American immigrant; her family came to the US as political refugees when she was just five years old. With a model of persistence and hard work from her parents, and the support of great teachers along the way, Tram became the first person in her family to attend college. During her time at Tufts, Tram discovered that, rather than serving families through medicine, she was driven to support her community in another way. “Jumpstart sparked my interest in children’s development and in providing underprivileged families with the educational resources they need for their child to succeed.” Ultimately, she decided to pursue a law degree, attending Northeastern University law school. For five years, Tram worked at Greater Boston Legal Services as a legal aid attorney, advocating for domestic violence survivors, workers, seniors, veterans, and children, and working with statewide coalitions and lawmakers to push for laws that address issues of racial and economic justice and protect the rights of the most vulnerable populations.
In November 2018, Tram was elected as a Massachusetts State Representative; she is the first Vietnamese-American woman to serve in the Massachusetts Legislature. Tram still regularly sees the ways her experience with Jumpstart shaped her path and her purpose: “I use the lessons from my volunteer experience at Jumpstart as inspiration every day to advocate for the less fortunate people in our communities and make sure that educators — and their students — have the resources they need to succeed.”
“…I believe the volunteerism Jumpstart fosters is invaluable for the volunteers and communities that the program operates in.”
Aside from the influence Jumpstart had on her own life, Tram sees how impactful the organization’s work has been on communities across the country for the last 25 years. “Jumpstart makes a tremendously positive impact by giving kids the resources and lessons they need to learn and build relationships in a safe environment. Investing in underprivileged children at a young age makes a huge improvement in what future opportunities are available to them and gives them a greater chance of having a successful future.” She goes on to add, “In addition, I believe the volunteerism Jumpstart fosters is invaluable for the volunteers and communities that the program operates in. The value of being able to impact a child’s development in an educational environment, in order to help these kids have a better chance at life, is good for the soul.”
When asked what she imagines for Jumpstart’s next 25 years, Tram’s key focus is on growth, opportunity, and scale — with a special eye, of course, for her constituents in Massachusetts. “I believe that Jumpstart can accomplish more in the next 25 years by expanding. Jumpstart’s ability to tap into the resources and student populations of universities could enable them to improve the lives of hundreds more children throughout states like Massachusetts.” Tram’s ultimate vision for Jumpstart is simple: provide as many children as possible with the gift she herself treasured — classrooms that are a sanctuary for learning and a launchpad for success.
Some quotes have been edited and condensed for length and clarity.