Jump Start revamped

The McNair Educational Foundation is revamping their Jump Start program.
Jul. 11, 2013 @ 05:04 AM

Jump Start has been revamped.

The McNair Educational Foundation program is going through a lot of changes this summer in hopes to make it more relevant to today's high school students. The program began 20 years ago at East Rutherford High School and then spread to Chase and R-S Central high schools. The program began on Monday and is being held at Isothermal Community College this summer in hopes to encourage the students who attend to start thinking about college.

"We just felt like we needed to do something to revamp it. It's a great program but a lot of things have changed, so we want to reenergize it," said Monica Lee, executive director of the McNair Foundation. "Before it was sort of a dropout prevention program. We took kids that were at risk of not graduating and tried to make sure they had what they needed to get through high school. We wanted to make it more of a focus on how to set your goals on college, then that makes high school relevant automatically."

Jump Start is a three week summer program for rising freshman where students attend classes from 7:45 a.m. until 3 p.m. It provides a "jump start" on high school academic classes such as science, English, math and a college readiness course. Students are recruited by middle school counselors to attend.

"Our focus is on students who did not take the more rigorous or high school classes while in middle school. We target them so that we can give them that boost academically on those classes while they're here before they go to high school," Lee said.

In the past, each of the three high schools have conducted their own separate programs but this year all 80 students were combined at Isothermal.

"We're thrilled that Monica had the idea to do this and it's gone really smoothly so far. From the McNair board perspective, the foundation's goal and mission is to increase the college-going rate among Rutherford County Schools students. This absolutely takes a step toward that in getting that early awareness," said Mike Gavin, director of marketing and community relations for ICC and McNair board member.

Lee said that by using the college the students have access to more resources such as the gym, pool, cafe and even some college instructors. Ashley Day, biology instructor at ICC, is assisting in teaching the science classes where the students are learning about forensics. Other instructors are from the middle and high schools.

"We have staff from all three schools. We have middle and high school staff because they can keep up with curriculum and know what's required of the students," Lee said. "And when they get back to high school they're going to recognize the people they met during the summer and have some familiar faces."

The students also receive an incentive for performing well in their classes. If their grades reflect the goals they set for themselves at the beginning of the program, they can receive money from the McNair Foundation. The highest amount they can earn is $212.

"It's like a job. They are rated based on grades in their classes. Pay is determined by what they set their goals to be and what their grades are. They're also graded on how they interact with their peers and interact with staff," said Neil VanDyke, Jump Start program director at East. "They are also bonuses they can get for competitions we are going to have."

Lee said the program is running smoothly at the college and the directors and volunteers are enjoying being at one, central location. She hopes to continue the revamping process and encourage more students to attend next year.

"We've taken the core of the program and made little tweaks and changes to revitalize it," Lee said.

The graduation ceremony for the students who complete the program will be held Thursday, June 25 at 6 p.m. in the gym of Isothermal.