Volunteer program for preschool children receives $10,000 grant

USC’s Jumpstart received $10,000 to continue funding the program, which is geared toward preparing preschool children for kindergarten by getting college students involved with local schools.

Jumpstart, which operates through the USC Volunteer Center received the grant through the USC Neighborhood Outreach Grant.

In its second year at USC, the Jumpstart program sends USC students to teach at eight local preschools. Students volunteer to bring resources and education to young children in order to help better prepare them for kindergarten.

The USC Volunteer Center wrote a grant proposal in collaboration with the Hoover Intergenerational Care preschool. This nearby preschool focuses on early childhood development and provides a platform for the Jumpstart program.

The USC Neighborhood Outreach Grant and the $10,000 are funded by the Good Neighbors Campaign, which encourages fundraising by faculty, staff, students and others through pay deductions or donations.

The proceeds go toward the USC Neighborhood Outreach program, which is devoted to creating a strong relationship between USC and the surrounding community.

In order to receive funding, recipients of the grant must meet certain requirements. One central condition is aligning with one of five strategic initiatives that correspond to the strategic focuses of the university.

Jumpstart appeals to the objective to improve education, said Melissa Gaeke, the director of the USC Volunteer Center.

“Other than the school’s early childhood education, USC doesn’t provide [educational] programming per se,” Gaeke said.

Jumpstart applied to the grant to better meet this need, as the program complies with the education initiative and provides valuable community service, she said.

“Because we are involving USC students in this early childhood programming, we thought it would make for a solid proposal,” Gaeke said.

The grant will be used to acquire more educational resources for the Jumpstart program, including the purchase of additional storybooks.

“Our curriculum is anchored by each storybook. We use one book per week. The money is going to help us to purchase those books, also to help us purchase additional tools and resources. [Without the grant] we wouldn’t have been able to provide the students with those necessary tools to be able to use in the classroom,” said Punam Bhakta, the Jumpstart program manager.

In addition to buying more materials, the grant will help the program increase its scope by reaching out to other preschools.

“We are able to expand with more resources,” Bhakta said. “If we are given more funding then we can reach more children, reach more families.”

Currently, Jumpstart is funded by two grants — including the most recent Good Neighbors grant — and funds from the USC Volunteer Center, which includes student programming fees.

“One of the key reasons I did Jumpstart was to kind of gain a relationship with kids that might not have the resources I had growing up and to make sure their education wasn’t put on the back burner, wasn’t ignored from lack of resources,” said Jumpstart Team Leader Leah Mireles, a junior majoring in international relations.

The program has been successful at improving education in the local community, as shown through forms that teachers fill out to measure the children’s development, Mireles said.

On a larger scale, the Jumpstart program helps to enhance education by creating an interest in learning among young children, Mireles said.

“You go in and you work with them and you see them progress into the student who’s not only bubbly in the social aspect but bubbly in terms of [being] excited for education, excited to read, excited to learn new things,” she said. “Hopefully that translates into the rest of their education,” she said.