Jumpstart USC enters its eighth year of volunteerism

Student volunteers in USC’s Jumpstart chapter work closely with preschool children in the South Central Los Angeles area. Photo courtesy of Erin Croix.

AmeriCorps’ Jumpstart program is an educational initiative that works to connect underprivileged preschoolers with undergraduate students across the United States. Jumpstart’s USC chapter is going on its eighth year, helping children in the South Central Los Angeles community develop a strong base for their academic futures.

Lamisa Hasan, a Jumpstart volunteer and junior studying human biology, said the program helped her find her place on campus.

“One of my goals I set to myself for going to college outside of my hometown is that I want to get involved with the local community,” Hasan said. “For me, Jumpstart is the best of both worlds. Not only am I able to make an impact on the local community, but it’s also through a way that I love — working with little kids.”

Jumpstart connects with four different preschools in the area and around 150 children around the ages of 3 to 5 years old, according to Erin Croix, the USC program manager.

“The preschool directors really decide whether they have room or if they’re interested in doing it,” Croix said. “They ultimately pick what it looks like when it’s implemented. Most of the time, though, it’s us reaching out and asking if [the program is] possible.”

Each year, Jumpstart recruits a minimum of 40 USC students to join, Croix said.

“There are some [students] interested in working in education later in life — whether that be in the classroom or in advocacy or in policy,” Croix said. “We also see a lot of students who are interested in pediatrics or family law, so we really have undergraduates from everywhere. This speaks to our program and how wide our reach is. It attracts different students for different reasons.”

While the organization is intended to benefit the preschoolers, it also benefits USC and the surrounding area, Croix said.

“[Jumpstart] builds a bridge between USC and the community outside,” Croix said. “There are a lot of ways USC students can easily be disconnected from the community just because of the format of campus and the new [USC] Village. Jumpstart is one of those programs that directly involves students.”

While this chapter of Jumpstart does have funding from its national AmeriCorps office, its program operating budget comes from USC’s Good Neighbors Grant, Croix said. The grant, which comes from faculty salary donations, is dispersed to various USC programs built to improve the surrounding community.

Good Neighbors has been in place since 1994 and has given out nearly 700 grants in total, according to its website.

“We are always at the involvement fairs and our applications for next semester open early spring,” Hasan said on getting involved with Jumpstart. “We also have a Facebook page and a website for contact.”