Supporting Worcester Children Amid the Pandemic

Jul. 8, 2021
Office of Communications
Mary Gillette '22
Mary Gillette '22 was one of several Assumption students who created engaging virtual content for children while volunteering for Jumpstart during the 2020-21 academic year.

Inspired by a mission to serve that deepened during the COVID-19 pandemic, a group of Assumption students discovered unique ways to support Worcester children in need by providing virtual programming as volunteers with Jumpstart, a national early education organization that prepares children for success as they begin formal schooling in kindergarten.

According to Lynn Thompson, Jumpstart Worcester State site manager, the local nonprofit recruits college students who spend 10 to 12 hours a week working with small groups of preschool-age children on language, literacy, and social-emotional skills.  Due to the pandemic, all Jumpstart programming went virtual this year and the Assumption students helped to make sure children and their families were not forgotten. 

“The student volunteers have been such a huge part of the program’s success this year,” said Thompson. “We were able to provide programming to over 60 children and serve in seven classrooms this year. The Assumption volunteers were committed to their service and did not hesitate to adapt the curriculum to meet the ever-changing needs of the children and preschools. They produced videos that were fun, engaging, and interactive. They provided opportunities for many children to engage in activities that helped them stay connected and gain valuable skills despite the pandemic.”

Rachel Folco ’22 led one of the organization’s teams and provided virtual sessions twice a week. “My team and I created materials for an interactive child-led play time, a guided story time with assigned books, taught vocabulary words, and practiced English language and writing skills,” she said. “We engaged the children to help them play and communicate with other children and adults confidently and respectfully.” 

Another team, led by Charlotte Hatcher ’22, served in a Head Start classroom providing content-rich videos for children and families through weekly newsletters. “These videos provided families the opportunity to engage with their children in fun and interactive activities,” said Thompson, adding that the members also helped create literacy kits for the children. 

Assumption’s partnership with Jumpstart Worcester began in fall 2018, when four first-year students, including Folco and Hatcher, began volunteering with the organization. Since then, the number of student volunteers has increased to average about eight each year, with many of the students serving for two or more years; Folco and Hatcher hope to volunteer for a fourth year this fall.

“I continue to volunteer with Jumpstart because of my love of working with children and seeing the growth and development of them over the school year,” said Folco. “It is an incredibly rewarding feeling to make a difference and form bonds with the children.”
 
Folco added that it’s important to her to give back to the Worcester community as a way to repay the community she has been living in for the past three years. “The mission of Jumpstart is to help children be prepared to enter kindergarten and give them all of the tools they need to be successful entering elementary school age; no child left behind,” she explained. “This was especially important to me in a large city such as Worcester.”