“It is an incredible honor to see seeds of love, creativity, and inclusiveness blossom yearly into smiling and more empowered children that will be the next generation of community.”
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 2008, Christopher Hernandez walked onto the Texas Tech campus as a freshman with every intention of becoming a lawyer. Once college was out of the way, he says, “I was going to fight for the common good. I was going to change the world, one policy at a time.” The best laid plans…
Because it aligned with his class schedule, Chris took on a work-study job with Jumpstart, and he fully immersed himself in the experience: the long, intentional training period; the powerful connection to a community that was special to him; joyous interactions with children and fellow volunteers in the classroom; the wonderful fulfillment of serving others. He remembers, “It was an incredible honor to see seeds of love, creativity, and inclusiveness blossom yearly into smiling and more empowered children that will be the next generation of community.”
Chris quickly became attached to his young partner child, Bradley. Bradley was a dual language learner with social anxiety around interacting with others. After what felt like a long process of establishing trust—with Bradley at first running away, then Chris playing in parallel with him, and finally Chris learning a little Mandarin to help them communicate—the two eventually became “best buds” who shared “massive hugs.” Chris was thrilled.
But his greatest moment, the moment when he realized he wanted to change his career path, came second semester. As Chris tells it, “We walked in and Bradley immediately brought this new friend over to me and told him, ‘Do not be scared. These people in red shirts are the good guys.’ What a moment! My shy friend not only trusted me but had also became a Jumpstart ambassador to future friends.”
She then proceeded to tell me that she attributed her grandson’s success and love of literacy to Jumpstart.”
Inspired to deepen his commitment and service to children, Chris changed his major to social work and spent the next three years as a Jumpstart team leader, guiding and supporting other Jumpstart volunteers. Chris says it felt amazing to do so much good in the classroom, but he didn’t quite appreciate the full scope of Jumpstart’s impact until a few years later when one day, standing at a the gas pump, a woman approached excitedly, asking if he was “Mr. Chris.” After cautiously acknowledging that yes, he was, “her eyes lit up and I saw one of the most joyous smiles. ‘I knew it!’ she said, ‘Thank you!! My grandson is doing so good because of you.’ She then proceeded to tell me that she attributed her grandson’s success and love of literacy to Jumpstart.”
In fact, she went on, her grandson was joining a group at his new school where he could share that deep love of books with others by reading to younger children. As it turned out, Chris was the social worker assigned to her grandson’s school to implement the very program this grandmother was telling him about.
In 2017, Chris officially returned to Jumpstart, this time as a staff member. He now works with teams of Jumpstart volunteers who serve 15 preschool classrooms throughout Boston. He is thrilled to have the opportunity to regularly witness “the amazing work our college students are doing with their little ones,” and says he constantly has “parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and friends telling me stories of how their little ones are being guided and loved by the Jumpstart volunteers I have the privilege to work with on a yearly basis.”
Not one to rest on his achievements, Chris still holds many aspirations for his own future and for Jumpstart’s. Here are a few standouts from his short list, covering the next 25 years:
- “I see the love and passion we are instilling in all our volunteers, staff, families, communities, and, most importantly, in Jumpstart children being utilized to reach even more people across the country. Not only in sheer numbers will we be growing, but in effectiveness.”
- “Everything we are learning today, all that knowledge will be used to keep moving the organization forward as a leader in the realm of early education.”
- “We would still be an organization that challenges itself and is consistently making the moves to model an inclusive and welcoming home for our staff.”
- “We will become a staple in communities and be seen as those people who are there for them; to be with them and care for their children.”
- “Lastly, selfishly, in 25 years, I want to attend a Jumpstart event and see the beauty and joy that we have created and fostered. I want to hear the stories of another volunteer who had a moment that changed their life, because there is not a doubt in my bones that, by that point, millions of people will own that story and mine will be lost in all the good we’ve created as an organization.”
To read more of Christopher’s inspiring story in his own words, see: Teacher Appreciation Day: Becoming a Superhero
Some quotes have been edited and condensed for length and clarity.