“Jumpstart has played such a large role in my life — not just from my formative years as a child with my sister in preschool, but even now as a college student.” —Samantha Perez
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.
As Jumpstart celebrates its 25th anniversary, the organization has the opportunity to reflect on its past in a variety of ways — highlighting cumulative results, impact, and organizational growth throughout the years. What is most special about this milestone is the opportunity it presents to hear the stories of some of Jumpstart’s most important partners — including preschool children and college student volunteers. Astriz and Samantha Perez are unique members of Jumpstart’s 25-year history: they have lived both of these roles. Astriz and Samantha first encountered Jumpstart as preschoolers, and today they both serve as Jumpstart volunteers — inspiring the next generation and paying it forward with each day in the classroom.
Astriz began looking for a work study job during the summer of 2017 before starting her freshman year at UC Berkeley and in her search she stumbled upon a listing for Jumpstart. She knew Jumpstart was focused on early education, but it wasn’t until she mentioned the name to her mother that she learned why the program sounded so familiar: she and her twin sister Samantha had participated in a Jumpstart program 15 years earlier when they were in preschool. Their mother remembered clearly how much they had both loved the program, and all the excited stories they used to come home with after a “Jumpstart day” in preschool. Newly reminded of the impactful role Jumpstart had played in her own early education, Astriz knew she had to apply and experience Jumpstart from the other side — as a college student volunteer. She joined the program at UC Berkeley and quickly enlisted Samantha to apply at UCLA as well. For the Perez twins, the path forward was clear: Jumpstart had touched their lives early on and now it was their opportunity to pass that gift on to inspire the next generation of children.
Astriz joined Jumpstart in 2017 and has since grown to become a team leader. She recalls being inspired by the Jumpstart volunteers as a child and quickly realized the necessity of serving to continue the work that Jumpstart has done for the past 25 years. “I decided that it was now my turn to be a source of fond memories and a support system for children who truly need it,” said Astriz.
Samantha learned about the opportunity to serve with Jumpstart from Astriz but quickly forged her own experience when reconnecting with the organization. Samantha recalls having a difficult time adjusting to college life and the pressures of balancing all the activities and responsibilities that college students must manage in order to succeed. These competing priorities often make it difficult for college students to find time to volunteer and give back — even when they are passionate about doing so. In Samantha’s case, her experience with her Jumpstart partner children helped to not only lift her spirits during a trying time but also taught her some meaningful lessons about the importance of communicating and asking for help.
“What inspires me the most about Jumpstart is its mission to make sure that no child is left behind. Knowing that there are people who are working so hard to make sure that children who lack resources can stand on equal footing with the children who have resources gives me comfort and hope for the future of the children we serve.” —Astriz Perez
“One day during Jumpstart, one of the older kids in our classroom was mad at her dad for not playing with her when she’d asked him to the night before. She was frustrated and crying, so I pulled her over to calm her down and asked her if she had tried to tell him how she felt. She told me no, because she didn’t know why she had to. I told her that he wouldn’t know how she felt if she couldn’t put her feelings into words for him. She looked up at me and asked me if I did that when I was sad. I was so taken aback by her question that when I thought about it, I realized I didn’t do that at all! The lessons I worked so hard to teach the children were ones I hadn’t been following all this time,” Samantha shared.
While the children’s smiling faces and enthusiasm often lifted her spirits, it was this conversation that prompted Samantha to follow her own advice. Samantha stopped suffering in silence and reached out to her sisters to get help with the challenges she was experiencing.
Astriz and Samantha have long shared a passion for service. In high school they worked with Fulfillment Fund, an organization that helps middle and high school students from underserved communities build pathways to college. Together they raised more than $70,000 for the organization by hosting an online bake sale. This experience was the beginning of their work in education advocacy and led them to their interest in serving with Jumpstart.
“What inspires me the most about Jumpstart is its mission to make sure that no child is left behind. Knowing that there are people who are working so hard to make sure that children who lack resources can stand on equal footing with the children who have resources gives me comfort and hope for the future of the children we serve,” said Astriz.
“Jumpstart has made a huge impact not only on my life, but also the lives the families we serve. Through my service with Jumpstart, I’ve been able to explore my love of education and learn more about the different dynamics in communities across Los Angeles.” —Samantha Perez
Passionate college student volunteers like Astriz and Samantha are a crucial component of the Jumpstart model and essential to the organization’s success. Their commitment day in and day out is the driving force behind the impact Jumpstart has made over the past 25 years. Jumpstart is not only providing young children with high-quality early learning opportunities, but also preparing future teachers through its focus on workforce development and inspiring college students, like the Perez twins, to leverage their educations to address issues they’ve discovered in the communities they serve.
“Jumpstart has made a huge impact not only on my life, but also the lives the families we serve. Through my service with Jumpstart, I’ve been able to explore my love of education and learn more about the different dynamics in communities across Los Angeles. This has pushed me to pursue a career in environmental studies and global health. I want to learn more about how the different areas where a person grows up can affect their future, and what environmental hazards these communities may be susceptible to because of their socioeconomic status,” Samantha explains.
Each college student involved with Jumpstart has a unique experience, but they are connected by their shared love for their communities and the children that they serve. These volunteers understand the significance of being there for Jumpstart children as friends and mentors, and the importance of assisting classroom teachers to ensure that our youngest learners are prepared for success in school. Astriz and Samantha’s stories offer a full circle view of how impactful Jumpstart is for preschoolers and ultimately the future leaders of our communities.
According to Astriz, by leveling the playing field for preschoolers, children like herself and Samantha are able to pursue a world beyond their imagination. “With Jumpstart, you can tell a child not just to dream big, but to dream even bigger because they now have a strong foundation to build their dreams upon.”
Some quotes have been edited and condensed for length and clarity.