by Claire Miller
As a former elementary school teacher in Atlanta Public Schools, Eshe’ Collins worked with students every day who struggled academically and had not developed a love for education.
In November 2009, she became the coordinator of the Jumpstart program in the College of Education and has dedicated her career to inspiring children to love learning.
Collins recently sat down to discuss the Jumpstart program, her academic career and the benefits of working with teachers, leaders, students and children in Atlanta.
Q: How would you describe the mission of Jumpstart?
A: Jumpstart is a national nonprofit organization that places current college students and volunteers at early learning centers to offer additional help with the language and literacy skills education children are learning in pre-K. The goal is to capture the students’ love for education at an earlier age. The data out there on literacy and the research conducted to understand the development of American education emphasizes starting as early as possible. So at Jumpstart, we work with four- and five-year-olds on those skills.
Q: How does the Jumpstart program work?
A: We are an AmeriCorps program, so we are funded through the Corporation for National and Community Service. Our core group is approximately 55 college students who each serve 300 hours in the classroom over the course of the school year.
In addition to this core group, we also recruit approximately 120 volunteers every school year to complete additional service activities in Atlanta. With those activities, we try to create projects and service opportunities that serve those that we may not reach on a weekly basis in our Jumpstart schools. For example, a big focus of our service last year was the homeless population in Atlanta. The face of homelessness in the city has changed because of the economic recession, and we are seeing more families and younger children in these situations, which affects their academic performance. We did various projects with My Sister’s House, Gateway Homeless Shelter and the Atlanta Children’s Shelter. The volunteer portion of Jumpstart allows those who can’t devote 300 hours of service during the school year to be active in Jumpstart and make a difference in early childhood education.
Q: Why is the Jumpstart program so important?
A: Before I came to Jumpstart, I was a fourth and fifth grade teacher for four years. I saw academic deficiencies in my students and I knew it was because of something they were missing from their educational experience well before they entered my classroom. Some of the children I worked with over the years never had a love for reading or learning. So a program like Jumpstart is very important because it tackles those issues before they even enter elementary school and starts to build a love for education.
Q: In addition to earning your Master of Science in Urban Teacher Leadership degree from the College of Education, you earned your law degree. How has that shaped your perspective on education?
A: My purpose for going to law school was not to solely practice law – it was to gain a better understanding of educational policy issues. While completing my law degree at North Carolina Central University, I worked with the Children’s Defense Fund on Capitol Hill to lobby for legislation and I worked in other capacities in the state of North Carolina. I already had the practical experience of being a teacher in Atlanta Public Schools and the theoretical experience of being a graduate student in a master’s program in the College of Education. But, I wanted to understand the legal underpinnings of education in this country.
Q: What is your favorite part about your job?
A: I love interacting with the various groups of people in Jumpstart. I work with college students seven days a week, and I’m also at the early learning centers working with their directors and professionals. So as a young professional myself, I am learning management and supervisory skills. Also, I’m still learning the dynamics of today’s college student, which is totally different from when I was an undergraduate.
And there’s always the fun we have working with young children. You never lose your love of being a teacher, so having the opportunity to still go in the classroom and teach and interact with them, that’s what I love most about my job.
For more information about the Jumpstart program at Georgia State, visit http://education.gsu.edu/cuee/community.html.