Well, I don't have many occupational therapy items to write about yet. A student from my OT program has created a Facebook group for us to start communicating. I am always surprised by how many people my age are married. It is fun to see what schools everybody is coming from. I can't wait to meet them.
Today I am going to write about Jumpstart, which is not directly related to occupational therapy, but I think the program really helped me develop some skills and awareness that will be instrumental in becoming a occupational therapist. I found out about the program through a recruiter on campus and I wanted to work with children, so it seemed like an ideal fit. Jumpstart is an AmeriCorps program (Think PeaceCorps, but in the States) that promotes literacy skills in pre-school children that come from areas with low education. I have held a variety of positions in the organization, which has given me a well-rounded sense of community. When I joined the program, I had no sense of community other than I lived in a particular city and people like me lived there. I came from an affluent area and had no sense of the disparity around me.
My first year with the program my schedule did not work out so that I could go to the preschools. Instead, I became the volunteer coordinator. I planned major events for one-time volunteers to complete. I would explain to them what the program was about, and sometimes fundraise materials for these events. I was not very good at it. I had a hard time explaining the mission of an organization that I had not participated in intimately. I did get all the necessary volunteers for the year and I was the first one to stick out the position for the entire year at our location.
My second year with the program I was a team-leader for one of the groups that went into the classroom. We would go to a classroom twice a week and implement a lesson plan that Jumpstart provided us. We would do reading, circle time (with games and singing), center time, and sharing and goodbye. I had a great team and a great classroom to be in. The kids would tell me funny and heartbreaking stories. Many times I became aware of the fact they knew more about jail, strippers, and drugs as a four year old than I knew as a college student. I also found out they would go home and just sit in front of the tv or have an older sibling loosely monitor them. It was this year I realized how desperately equal education needed. These kids were already behind at age 4/5. It might seem unrealistic to say that, but compared to where the kids in my area were academically they were. At this age, the love for learning and the foundation for learning are created. Without those elements, no one will want to continue education and better themselves through it.
I am now in my third year with the program in a different classroom and I'm lovin' it (yes I love McDonald's too). This program was instrumental in me learning leaderships and working with peers from different walks of life. This program installed a sense of community into me that I will not forget. I believe experiences not directly related to occupational therapy can be incredibly useful and eye-opening and create an advantage in applying to occupational therapy schools. In fact this was the one experience the interviewers asked me about and seemed most impressed with.
Check out www.jstart.org if you have a chance!