Literacy Program Helps At-Risk Children Enjoy Books
Oct. 3, 2012
The UT Dallas Jumpstart program works with children at four daycare centers in the Dallas area.
UT Dallas senior Brittany Jones has seen the transformation that reading can inspire for at-risk children from underserved communities.
When she was a freshman, Jones signed up with the Jumpstart program at UT Dallas, which is part of a national program that pairs at-risk pre-schoolers with adult volunteers in year-long relationships to build literacy as well as social and emotional skills.
Jones, an arts and technology major, was paired up with a toddler named Cristian, whom she visited at the Children’s Beginning child development center in Dallas. In addition to reading, Jones worked with Cristian and other children on different activities such as writing, creating art and assembling puzzles.
Cristian was a shy child who didn’t like to participate when it was time for the children to present their work, Jones said. Now he’s a spunky kid who likes to get involved.
“This past year, he’d raise his hand immediately and would want to share something,” she said. “He would face the class and share what he did. It was amazing to see him come out of that little box.”
His progress has amazed Jones, who spends several hours a week working with children in the Dallas area. Jones started out as a Jumpstart Corps Member and has risen to a Team Leader, which has helped her gain leadership skills.
Irene Marroquin Bellatin, UT Dallas’ Jumpstart site manager.
“I learned a lot about leadership and organization and about my community,” she said. “I never realized the need for this type of program. I grew up in a middle class family. I always had the resources I needed to do well in school and be successful. I’m blessed, and some children aren’t as blessed to have that. It opened my eyes to see the need in the community.”
With the current academic year underway, UT Dallas Jumpstart seeks students who want to apply to the program as well as volunteers from the University community. The Jumpstart program is also an AmeriCorps Program. The UT Dallas Jumpstart program works with children at four daycares in the Dallas area.
The first volunteer opportunity is Oct. 4, when Jumpstart presents its annual campaign called Read for the Record, a nationwide initiative that encourages children and adults to read the same book, Ladybug Girl and the Bug Squad. Volunteers are needed at daycare centers where they will read the selected book and do select activities designed around the story.
Since the UT Dallas Jumpstart program was established in the 2008-2009 school year, the number of children served has increased from 10 to 85 last year, said Irene Marroquin Bellatin, UT Dallas’ Jumpstart site manager. UT Dallas students have performed approximately 21,900 service hours since Fall 2008. A total of 75 UT Dallas students have completed the full terms of service since then.
UT Dallas students who apply to the program have the option of using it as a course credit, internship or work study. Participants start out as Corps members who are expected to commit 10 to 12 hours each week depending on the level of service they’re performing.
Marroquin Bellatin said the Jumpstart Corps members are a close-knit group who have become a family. They also grow attached to the pre-school kids whom look up to them.
“It’s life changing for them,” she said. “And they have an impact on a child, and it’s something they can always put on a resume. They’re making a change in the community.”
Volunteer for Read For the Record on Oct. 4: Call Irene Marroquin Bellatin at (972) 883-2024 or e-mail [email protected] for information.
Apply to Jumpstart: Students at the undergraduate and graduate levels can apply for volunteer positions with Jumpstart. Visit the Jumpstart website to apply. Contact Marroquin Bellatin if you have any questions or need information.
Education credit: UT Dallas participants may be eligible for work/study assistance, course credit or AmeriCorps education awards up to $1,000 for tuition, loans or books.
Donate: The UT Dallas Jumpstart program continuously seeks supplies to provide to the children whom they help at four daycare centers in the Dallas area. Supplies sought include books, construction paper, markers and writing materials. Contact Marroquin Bellatin if you’d like to donate or for more information.