This school year started with the announcement that Jumpstart a program that uses college students as tutors for inner city schools, would be ended at UR due to financial constraints. This school year will end with Jumpstart’s substitute, UReading, having established itself as a legitimate successor.

According to Rochester Center for Community Leadership Director Glenn Cerosaletti, the program has utilized 28 undergraduate students as tutors at Adlai Stevenson School 29, part of the Rochester City School District. The students logged over 5,000 hours of work during the 2009-10 school year as mentors to an equal number of elementary school students.

‘UReading was a great success, given the precipitous events that led to its creation,” Cerosaletti said.

He also praised the program’s coordinator, RCCL Assistant Director Patricia Waters, who was unavailable for comment.

Capitalizing on the program’s current momentum, RCCL hopes to extend the program to Dr. Charles T. Lunsford School 19, as well as a nearby preschool. Project CARE, another RCCL initiative that focuses on fourth through sixth graders currently serves that school.

The expansion is a boon for a program started hastily after Jumpstart’s exit. UR’s was the only Jumpstart program in the Rochester area, and the next closest branches were at Hobart and William Smith Colleges in Geneva N.Y. and Syracuse University. But with major support from School 29 Principal Dr. Clinton V. Strickland, Jr., UR proceeded with UReading’s installation.

However, the conversion from Jumpstart provided a number of challenges to RCCL and the would-be tutors. ‘Because of this program being new and us being unsure about if it was going to all come through, we were more rushed in the fall to get everything together quickly, to get the program up and running,” UReading team leader and junior Jennelle Rhodes said.

Like Rhodes, junior Yonatan Hochstein also worked as a Jumpstart team leader, responsible for planning and facilitating meetings. Although initially skeptical of the new program, he joined UReading as well, and agrees with Rhodes regarding the difficult beginning. Yet he and Rhodes also applauded UReading for its flexibility. Jumpstart required branches to conform to its national standards, and UReading has none of those strict instructions.

‘Different children from different areas of the country have different needs, and these individual differences need to be addressed,” Hochstein said. ‘A flexible model allows us to work with these differences in needs.”

That flexibility means that the tutors can choose how they run sessions, facilitating the way in which UReading can mold sessions in ways that fit in better with the lesson plans of School 29’s teachers.

‘We were able to take the program from nothing to bringing it to nearly the same level of effectiveness as Jumpstart was last year,” Hochstein said.

RCCL plans to strengthen those sessions further by providing additional training to UReading’s tutors through the UR Educational Alliance, a consortium of eight different groups focused on education-related community outreach, which has already been extensively developed by the Margret Warner School of Education and Human Development.

Yet even the best advances by UReading fail to hide the issues of the program’s funding. Jumpstart’s budget has not been easily replaced, and the school faces major obstacles with transportation and supplies, even with a $5,000 budget.

That’s not surprising, perhaps, given the weak national economy motif coursing throughout UR’s divisions.

A portion of UReading’s funding comes from a Federal Work Study grant, and much of the rest comes from the College. Cerosaletti doesn’t see either as a source for major increases in funding, which primarily leaves grants, awards and external partnerships to fill the void.

The American Eagle Foundation, for example, provided $500 this year to supply books for children who completed the program.

At the moment, the program’s expansion seems contingent mostly on hope and speculation, rather than any confirmed sources of additional financing. But whether or not the program expands, the benefits are undeniable and there are some peripheral benefits as well.

‘When the tutors walk in the doors, students run up to them to either say “hello’ or tell them about their latest achievement,” UReading team leader and senior Jaclyn Zarack said. ‘The program is a perfect example of the positive aspect that University of Rochester students can have when they work in the community.”

Brenneman is a Take Five Scholar.

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