Through the Jumpstart Program at the University of Rhode Island, students invest in their future careers by investing in the futures of young students.

Although often disregarded, one of the most important parts of an educational career begins in preschool and kindergarten. Through completing 300 hours of service in early childhood programs, URI Jumpstart team members make sure every child enters school prepared to succeed.

“Jumpstart is an incredible early intervention to help students become actively engaged in learning and relationships with others,” said Jumpstart Team leader, Billy Bowden, who volunteers at Head Start in Westerly, Rhode Island.

At Head Start, Bowden works with 20 students ranging from 3 to 5 years old. “We implement two hour lessons developing each child’s academic, social and emotional competencies,” Bowden said. Bowden said Jumpstart works primarily with children of low-income backgrounds to ensure that their families and the community are a part of their education.

“Without the Jumpstart program, many children would be unprepared for kindergarten, which will set the tone for the rest of their schooling,” said Jumpstart member Sarah Buckley. Buckley said that during her sessions at her placement, she directs activities like art, plays, writing and circle time where students share what they learned that day.

But Jumpstart is not just about changing the lives of students; for mentors it can have a huge impact on their own lives. It shapes their future careers and education while teaching them valuable life lessons and the impact they can have on the world.

For Bowden, he saw this when he was working with a student who was having difficulty sharing with others. One day while building a block structure with the student, he told him about the importance of teamwork and that together with the others they could make an even bigger block tower.

“At the end of the day during ‘Sharing and Goodbye,’ the student got up in front of his peers and pointed out that teamwork was the reason that he was able to build his block tower,” Bowden said, after the students had built a life-size structure bigger than him. “That was literally a life-changing moment that sent goose bumps through me and inspired me to teach.”

Through Jumpstart, members complete a six-credit community service class and earn an Americorps award and work-study, if applicable. Along with the hands on learning in their 300 hours of classroom time, Jumpstart member develop important leadership skills and get valuable classroom experience. Although it may be education oriented, all majors are welcome to apply.