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Tuesday, September 30, 2003
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Zanesville jumpstarts preschool education

By Marisa Palmieri


From Boston to Baton Rouge, Seattle to Southeastern Ohio, students enter the classroom on a daily basis lacking the fundamental language, literacy and social skills they need to succeed. This fall, Ohio University Zanesville Campus will join Jumpstart, a national program that pairs college students with preschool students who are struggling in Head Start or in early classroom experiences.


"It's an incredible adventure we're taking here in Zanesville this year," said Colleen Romito, Zanesville's Jumpstart site manager.


According to teachers in the Carnegie Corporation's Starting Points report, 35 percent of American kindergarten children arrive at school unprepared to learn. This alarming statistic increases when narrowed to single parent and low-income families.


As a nonprofit organization with the goal of assuring that all children enter school ready to learn, Jumpstart enriches the lives of the child and his or her family, as well as the college students who gain unparalleled experience through service learning as members of Americorps.


"It's a win-win situation," said Darla Sowers, an early childhood education major who will gain experience in curriculum planning as a student group leader.  "It's a wonderful experience for myself as well as the one-to-one experience for the student."


The Zanesville Jumpstart program, which will kick off at the end of October, has teamed up with CareyTown Preschool, a center that serves many low-income families. 


Jumpstart will work with 3-year-olds to 5-year-olds deemed at-risk by the CareyTown staff, according to Romito. "Research suggests that the best way to provide intervention is through one-on-one opportunities," she said.


"We are really excited about getting [Jumpstart] started," said Debbie Fisher, director of CareyTown Preschool. Fisher had to apply to bring Jumpstart to CareyTown, which has prior experience with Head Start and Americorps.


Romito, who teaches early childhood education at the Zanesville campus and has been involved in preschool programming for the last two decades, is currently in the process of recruiting the 20 college students who will pioneer the program.


The college students are paid through the federal work-study program and work 10 to 12 hours a week. The students receive 60 hours of training and do not have to be education members to participate. According to Sowers, "We're looking for a wide array of students, but basically, someone that has a burning desire to make a difference in a child's life."


Marisa Palmieri is a student writer for University Communications and Marketing.
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