Jumpstart to Kindergarten helps children

Editor’s note: This is the next in a series of stories about member agencies of the United Way Alliance of the Mid-Ohio Valley.

BELPRE – The Jumpstart to Kindergarten program at Belpre Elementary School helps students going into kindergarten get acclimated to the school building, the rules and the idea of being at school on a daily basis.

The program receives $5,000 from the United Way Alliance of the Mid-Ohio Valley to provide a four-week intensive program for pre-kindergarten students.

Students who had certain concerns identified during their initial evaluations before entering kindergarten can be invited to participate in the Jump Start program, said Cheri Epperly, kindergarten teacher and one of the coordinators for the program at Belpre Elementary School.

“The district invites 20 children to participate,” she said. “It is for children who have not had any pre-school, had limited pre-school experience or during their kindergarten registration had concerns come up in some areas.”

The program concentrates with kids on basic pre-school skills, like color recognition, number recognition, writing their names, shape identifications and many of those kinds of skills as well as getting use to being in a classroom setting with a teacher and other students, Epperly said.

“It gives them four weeks to experience their school, possibly meet their teachers, be around school supplies and so on,” she said. “We learned that many had never been around scissors before.”

Participants get to meet at least one of the kindergarten teachers and several classmates; they are given tours of the school building and grounds; and learn the rules about raising their hand to speak and lining up. The teacher goes over the day’s objectives with the students and they go about accomplishing them.

“As a result, I have seen children who would normally be at a little bit of a loss being away from their parents end up becoming leaders in the classroom,” Epperly said. “They end up modeling the behavior that is expected, the procedures and the routines for the other children.

“It gives them a lot of self-confidence and that is key to their success in learning.”

Laura Morrison’s daughter, Elizabeth, went through the program in August before the start of the current school year. Elizabeth already knew her ABCs and other things, but there were still some concerns.

“This program helped her get familiar with the school and the teachers,” Morrison said. “It helped her get familiar with the classroom setting in the sense that she would be here five days a week and she would be here all day long.”

Morrison worked with Elizabeth on a number of things before coming to school.

“Doing Jumpstart helped her a little bit more,” she said. “Elizabeth had some hurdles we had to overcome on our own and there were concerns about possible learning disabilities.”

However, Elizabeth has been succeeding in school, her mother said.

“So far she has made the honor roll,” Morrison said. “She has a 4.0 which is outstanding.

“She is a very hard worker. Jumpstart, I believe, instilled giving her the attitude that it is important to succeed.”

The program helped Elizabeth cement everything together for when school started. Her mother compared it to building blocks where Jumpstart was an important step between what they were doing at home and being fully involved in the day-to-day activity of school.

“When she came to school, it made an easy transition into the classroom setting,” Morrison said. “Everything went smoothly. It wasn’t stressful for her.

“A lot of times, it can be a stressful environment for a kid to come into a classroom setting, meeting a new teacher, meeting other students, worried about how things are going to go. When school started she just sailed through.”

Elizabeth, 5, said she had fun.

“I got to cut out the shapes and put it on the shape tree,” she said of one of the exercises to help students identify shapes.

Epperly said around 26 people on the school staff are involved with Jumpstart. This year, the district started providing transportation for participants whose parents have to work. At the conclusion of the four weeks, the students are equipped with school supplies, including a crayon box, pencils, crayons, scissors, glue sticks, hand wipes, tissues, hand sanitizer, picture book and a card game.

The response from parents has been great, Epperly said

“It is an important program,” she said. “When kindergarten actually begins, these students are already comfortable with the school, the teachers and the tools they will use daily.”