UAFS’s Jumpstart Arkansas to Expand to NorthWest Arkansas Community College
The University of Arkansas – Fort Smith’s Jumpstart Arkansas announced that it received a grant of $219,287 from AmeriCorps, the federal agency for national service and volunteerism, through the support of EngageAR, the Arkansas state office for national service and volunteerism.
With this funding, Jumpstart Arkansas will be able to use the skills and experience of 48 AmeriCorps student members on the two campuses to participate in national service while improving kindergarten readiness in northwest and west central Arkansas.
UAFS is supporting the program with a $102,861 match. NWACC is providing an office, meeting spaces, technology, and administrative support for students on that campus.
Jumpstart Arkansas places college students in underserved and under-resourced preschool classrooms. Jumpstart members work with the preschoolers to prepare them for success when they move to kindergarten. Working with Jumpstart members, the preschoolers improve their language, literacy, and social-emotional skills.
During the 2021-2022 school years, children in Jumpstart classes demonstrated gains of an average of 20 points on the Test of Preschool Early Literacy, far exceeding the typical growth in a school year.
Members, who can be in any major, commit to serving 300 hours per term, about 10-15 hours per week. In addition to their time in the classroom, they also work together on planning and discuss their experiences.
For their service, they receive a monthly living allowance of $225. By completing their 300 hours, they earn $1,374 AmeriCorps Segal Education Award funds they can use to repay student loans or as a scholarship to further their education.
Jumpstart Arkansas is working with UAFS’s Educational Renewal Zone to provide members at both colleges additional training. As members complete training modules and service, they can earn up to an additional $3,000 through Arkansas Tutor Corps. Some members also are eligible for federal work-study funding.
But the experience at Jumpstart gives them more than just financial benefits, Kimberly Taylor, director of Jumpstart Arkansas, pointed out.
“The intrinsic rewards from knowing you are positively impacting the lives of children, the relationships built with team members and staff, and the professional skills developed go with members far beyond their term of service.”
Members benefit from leadership opportunities, professional development, and classroom experiences to enhance their resumes.
UAFS elementary education major Karina Gonzalez said, “One of the most important things I learned from my journey with Jumpstart has been how to communicate with adults and have patience with myself and with those around me. I have also learned very important life-lasting skills: how to manage my time and always be prepared for the next step and not to be afraid.”
Taylor said that Karina was the first Jumpstart Arkansas member to complete the maximum of four semesters, completing 1,200 hours of service.
The UAFS Jumpstart program was the first of its kind in Arkansas. Since 2019, 39 members have completed 300 hours of service and have boosted the confidence and competence of 175 children. Service site program partners included Fort Smith Public Schools, Lincoln Child Care Center, Dallas Street Head Start, and the Crisis Intervention Center’s former preschool Brighter Beginnings.