The Boston College chapter of Jumpstart, a national mentorship program for low-income preschoolers, has been discontinued this semester due to budgetary cuts on a national level. The undergraduates involved were informed of the program’s end over the summer, well into their planning for the year ahead.
Mark Reilly, regional executive director of Jumpstart’s Northeast district and BC Law ’99, hopes that this will be just a one-year hiatus. The program was closed because Jumpstart received $3.1 million less than anticipated from grants, and could not fully make up the disparity through private donations. The group plans to reapply for the grant next year.
Americorps, a government-funded civil society program, supports various foundations and organizations that engage adults in community service work. With the assistance of Americorps funding, Jumpstart has formed chapters at colleges across the U.S. Since 1993, Jumpstart has trained over 36,000 college students to work with 76,000 preschool children. Approximately 1,000 college students and volunteers have worked with the Massachusetts and Rhode Island branch.
The organization recruits and trains college students and volunteers to enter into low-resource preschools in order to deliver a literacy and social-based education.
“What I think is the greatest loss is not the absence of Jumpstart in my life, but its absence in the lives of all the children that BC students would have been serving.”
-Shari Dryden, MCAS ’16
Reilly oversees the programming in Washington, D.C., Massachusetts, and Rhode Island. He manages responsibilities for program delivery as well as fundraising responsibilities of development functions. In addition, he maintains relationships with universities and their local chapters.
BC’s Jumpstart program helped preschool students in low-income areas. It also offered volunteers an opportunity to receive an education award for completing 300 hours of service. Americorps provided the grant for volunteers to further their education. Jumpstart must apply for its grants every year, however. Most years, Jumpstart receives its projected total, approximately 17 million, but, this year, Jumpstart fell about $3.1 million short.
“Jumpstart needs to reapply annually for those federal resources and we do so every year,” Reilly said. “Some months ago, we received surprising news that one of the several grants from the Americorps office was not going to be renewed.”
When Jumpstart realized that its funding fell short, the organization began seeking out private donations. Creating a private funding development effort, Jumpstart was able to raise $2.8 million over the course of the summer. Many of these resources were primarily raised through contributions from individual donors as well as some corporate partners.
Because the program could not raise the same amount that the Americorps grant provided, Jumpstart was forced to curtail programming and BC’s program was shuttered.
Shari Dryden, MCAS ’16, worked with Jumpstart since her freshman year. She served as a program assistant, corps member, and a team leader. Planning on returning to Jumpstart as the volunteer coordinator, Dryden was upset that Jumpstart would not be returning this year.
“This was probably one of the more heartbreaking experiences for me at during my time at BC,” Dryden said. “Not only did Jumpstart show me that education was without a doubt what I want to work and advocate for, but it also provided me with a support system of people who were invaluable when it came to dealing with the cuts.”
Although the BC chapter is out of operation for the remainder of the year at least, students can still participate through nearby locations. They can work with other Boston universities, like Wheelock College and Boston University. The program’s organizers hope to regain funding for BC so they can incorporate students from years prior.
“Part of our goal this year is to continue to push all of our development efforts so that even in the event that we do not receive the additional grant, we still hope to be able to raise significant private resources that will help us re-engage BC’s campus,” Reilly said. “These are good for students with an interest in education or an interest in continuing to serve. We know that that interest remains and we hope that we can meet that interest as soon as possible.”
Reilly explained that each college interested in partnering with Jumpstart submits an application and goes through an application review process. A variety of factors—particularly the number of recruits and how expensive the program was—prompted Jumpstart to terminate the BC chapter.
“Jumpstart was one of the most important and life-changing programs that I’ve ever had the privilege of serving with, but what I think is the greatest loss is not the absence of Jumpstart in my life but its absence in the lives of all the children that BC students would have been serving,” Dryden said.
Featured Image courtesy Jumpstart BC