by Christa Hunter, 2017 OCDEL Policy Fellowship Graduate
“Imagine starting a race knowing more than half of your competitors will be given a head start. Not exactly fair, is it?”
I read those words on a brochure during my freshman year of college before submitting my application to the Jumpstart Pittsburgh program at the University of Pittsburgh. Jumpstart is a national early education organization that recruits and trains college students and community members to serve preschool children in under-resourced communities through a language, literacy, and social-emotional curriculum. Jumpstart was the greatest experience for me during my time in college. I was able to spend a significant amount of time in preschool classrooms each week, learn about early childhood education in our state, and discover my passion for the field. It was an eye-opening experience and one I am truly grateful for since it set me on the career path I am today.
After graduating, I was fortunate enough to become a Jumpstart Site Manager. I truly enjoyed watching the college students I managed grow and learn. I coached and supported pre-service teachers inside and outside of the classroom every week, communicated with child care staff on a regular basis, and connected with families during events. During this past year, I was able to take on a new role at Temple University’s College of Education as the Assistant Director for Early Learning Services and Career & Student Development. I continue to work with pre-service teachers as well as support the college’s early learning initiatives. I still work closely with the Jumpstart Site Managers and do everything I can to support the work our students are doing in the field.
Last year, I participated in the OCDEL Policy Fellowship. This gave me the opportunity to learn more about OCDEL’s policies and procedures, meet leaders across the state, and develop leadership skills to help me grow as a professional. Additionally, I connected with leaders at OCDEL such as Deputy Secretary Suzann Morris who provided us with insight on the state of early learning in Pennsylvania. Being a native from Philadelphia, I was inspired by Suzann’s leadership and encouraged to continue to grow as a leader myself.
This year, we are grateful for Deputy Secretary Morris’s support of Jumpstart’s Read for the Record not just at Temple University but across the state. Jumpstart’s Read for the Record highlights the importance of high-quality early education in America by mobilizing millions of children and adults to celebrate literacy by participating in the largest shared reading experience. On October 19th, children and adults around the world will highlight the importance of children’s literacy by reading, “Quackers” by Liz Wong. In Philadelphia, we try to engage as many people in the city to participate in this national event and spread the word about the importance of high-quality early education and literacy. Community members, Temple faculty, staff, and students, Jumpstart Corps members, teachers, and children participate in our celebration every year at Temple University.
My participation in the OCDEL Fellowship provided me with the confidence to connect with leaders at the state and local level to participate in this year’s event at Temple. I have actively been seeking more opportunities to get involved in early childhood education conversations in my city to bring back to my students as they prepare for their future as educators and I am looking forward to continuing my growth and development with the skills I learned from this experience.
* To learn more about Jumpstart’s Read for the Record and how to get involved, click here: https://www.jstart.org/read-for-the-record/
** If you would like to participate in Temple University’s event on October 19th, please email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.