September 24, 2009
There is more to teaching a child the love of reading than
Dr. Seuss’ “The Cat in the Hat.” Just ask the St. John’s School of
Education’s Jumpstart office, which operates under the leadership
Jerrold Ross, what it takes to engage pre-schoolers
Did you know that 80 percent of preschool and after-school programs
serving low-income populations have no age-appropriate books for
their children? By the age of two, children who are read to
regularly display greater language comprehension, larger
vocabularies and higher cognitive skills than their peers.
It was these significant statistics that encouraged Associate Dean
Charisse Willis to take action. By her side are two dedicated
site managers, St. John’s alumna Carolina Aguasanta and Susan Chun,
who work tirelessly to develop the most recognizable, successful
Jumpstart initiative at St. John’s University.
Establish more than a decade ago, Jumpstart is a national
literacy non-profit organization that works towards the day every
child in America receives a quality early education and enters
school prepared to succeed.
Primarily responsible for training college students to work with
children from at-risk neighborhoods to build literacy and language
skills, they also observe and monitor volunteer progress,
facilitate communication between the children and their families,
recruit applicants and uphold the guidelines and mission of the
program, all while juggling numerous community and campus
“The faculty within the School of Education has been very welcoming
and has extended their arms to us,” says Carolina. “I witnessed the
impact this program has on the lives of young children and it
compels me to extend the resources we have at the University to the
program offers 80 selected undergraduates the opportunity to
partner one-on-one with at-risk children ages three to five at six
affiliated pre-schools to teach them the reading, writing and
social skills needed to succeed. Participants are also eligible for
federal work study wages after 300-hours of service.
As past Jumpstart core members and team leaders during their
undergraduate years, both Carolina and Susan recognize the deep,
life-altering impact the program makes, not only on the lives of
its members but on the pre-school students as well.
“I motivate myself because of this program, says Susan. “I still
maintain a relationship with my partner child dating back to my
days as a team leader. I continue to support and provide him with
the best educational resources available. I feel like a true mentor
and the rewards are immeasurable.”
Jumpstart is an unbiased initiative that gives every St. John’s
student, regardless of academic level or discipline, the
opportunity to contribute to the outcome of a child’s education as
well as the community.
“Once you are a part of the St. John’s family and mission,
you can become a part of Jumpstart,” explains Professor Willis. “We
have to take a step back and realize this younger generation will
help build a new future and it’s up to us to mold, shape and
One Million Strong
On October 8, 2009, Jumpstart is sponsoring “
Read for the Record,” an international campaign promoting the
world’s largest shared reading experience. The literary campaign
leadership predicts that one million children and adults will be
engaged in reading the adventures of The Very Hungry
Caterpillar by Eric Carle on the same day.
As part of the “Read for Record,” St. John’s School of Education
has partnered with five branches of the Queens Library to promote a
fondness for reading and language to children at an early age. St.
John’s students have volunteered to visit and read to pre-schoolers
at the designated sites. For more information on “Read for Record”
or to join in setting an international record, visit:
www.readfortherecord.com or contact the Jumpstart office at
Making a Difference
What to become a Jumpstart Corps member? Visit www.jstart.org for more
information on Jumpstart.
Carolina Aguasanta or Susan Chun
Marillac Hall SB-34