Children from low-income neighborhoods start kindergarten 60 percent behind their peers that come from more affluent communities. That statistic is unsettling to say the least, but there is a solution out there and it starts with Jumpstart.

Ever since its founding in 1993, Jumpstart has been on a mission to train college students and community volunteers to help low-income students develop the language, literacy and social skills they need to take kindergarten – and the world – by storm. The nonprofit aims to level the playing field and set these children on a path for lifelong success, which was made abundantly clear to me during an interview with Regional Operations Manager Lindsay Grimes and Interim Executive Director of Jumpstart DC, Elizabeth Huber. Their excitement and passion for Jumpstart translated through the phone lines as both women couldn’t help but boast about the work Jumpstart has done, especially locally over the past 15 years. They raved about how advantageous of an opportunity the program is for volunteers and youth alike, proud to say that they are serving 800 students this year.

InTheCapital: How does Jumpstart work?

Linsday Grimes & Elizabeth Huber: We envision the day when every child in American enters kindergarten prepared to succeed. Through our research-based, cost-effective program we believe we can make that happen, too, as our proven curriculum helps children to develop the skill set they need to be prepared for years of success in academia.

What’s a typical day like in a Jumpstart classroom?

When you’re working with three, four, and five-year-olds, there’s never a typical day, but here’s what the schedule’s like:

When they enter the classroom, the kids are split into small groups – about a 1:3 child ratio – and take part in welcome. Children learn about the alphabet with Corps members who make connections with the children by talking about the letters in each of their names. Then they transition into reading time. Children and Corps members read a story out loud, which often includes a conversation about vocab words and the prompting of questions to get the dialogue going. Circle time is next. Led by a team leader, children sing songs and play games. After that they go into center time, participating in a series of different activities that are switched up week-to-week and range from dramatic plays to puzzles. As the day’s about to come to a close, children then talk about what they did in a large group setting.

How many universities do you partner with in the D.C. area? 

We work with seven higher education partners and have a program called Community Corps, which trains older adults to serve young children between the ages of three and five and places them in classrooms that are in low-income neighborhoods. Our partnerships include American University, The George Washington University, Howard University, Catholic University of America, University of the District of Columbia, Trinity Washington University and Georgetown University. GW and Howard are our long-standing partners, though, and the newest two are AU and Trinity. We’re recruiting about 330 college students across the different campuses who will commit 300 hours to implementing our curriculum at a preschool over the course of a year.

How is Jumpstart funded?

The AmeriCorps program funds a lot of the needs of Jumpstart. We also have an individual giving program both nationally and locally. We get some support from foundations and corporations, most notably from the following: The Boeing Company; ServeDC – The Mayor’s Office on Volunteerism; The George Wasserman Family Foundation; Goldman, Sachs & Co.; The Horning Family Fund; K&L Gates; The Morris and Gwendolyn Cafritz Foundation; PNC Grow Up Great; Starbucks; Venable; WilmerHale; Tom Healy and Fred Hochberg; Lori and Matthew Espe; Ethan Grossman; Lamell McMorris; Tom and Kathy Raffa/Raffa P.C.; Carter Romansky; Sarah Segura; Natalie Wexler and the Wells Fargo Foundation.

It was Boeing’s generous $40,000 grant this year that allowed Jumpstart to bring its Community Corps program to D.C.

How do you decide which children to work with?

We try to locate children in the most high-need communities, mainly Ward 7 and Ward 8. We want to serve children that really need the services.