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An American Hero Takes a Stand for the Children

June 28, 2003|Danielle Watson | Danielle Watson has been a Jumpstart member in Los Angeles since February.

President Bush called me a hero, and as a hero I won't stand by while Omar and the other children in El Jardin's preschool program get left behind. That's what will happen unless we convince Congress and the president not to cut funding for AmeriCorps, the federal community-service program.

As a student at Cal State Northridge, I have spent this school year working with children at El Jardin in North Hollywood as a part of Jumpstart, which recruits, trains, places and supports college students in mentoring underprivileged preschool-age children. In this program, I have seen children who rarely spoke a word begin to speak in sentences.

I had planned to serve as a Jumpstart member again next year, but now I can't.

Jumpstart, a leading member of the AmeriCorps network, forms an integral link between young Americans like myself, who wish to volunteer their time, and communities eager for the help, such as the students and teachers at El Jardin.

Twice a week during the school year I head to El Jardin with the rest of my AmeriCorps team. I work with Omar, one on one; we read books together and talk about the story or the pictures. During Jumpstart, children also interact in a group to develop the language and social skills that are important to future academic and social success. Jumpstart encourages children to reach their fullest potential through literacy, initiative and social skills development.

So when I heard that the funding for AmeriCorps might be drastically cut, that meant something to me. As a member of Jumpstart Los Angeles, I've been able to see what a 300-hour commitment means to a community. Now I worry about what it would mean for Jumpstart to lose its funding. Many children would miss the crucial educational development that Jumpstart provides.

I'm frustrated that such an obviously beneficial program is in danger. As a member of the community, I see that there is so much work to be done here in L.A. schools and neighborhoods. I know that I am just one of thousands who are eager to jump in and make changes happen.

President Bush called Jumpstart's AmeriCorps members "heroes" for our service and held us up as role models for others who want to serve our country. First Lady Laura Bush said that the nation was fortunate to have people like Jumpstart Corps members, "who aim high, work hard and inspire others along the way."

As a hero, role model and someone who wants to answer the president's call, let me inspire those with power to ensure that AmeriCorps and Jumpstart receive the funding they deserve. Please allow us to keep building Los Angeles one AmeriCorps member and one child at a time.

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