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Kean University

Kean Alumna, Grad Student, Goes Full Circle to Help Children Learn

Kean alumna Yoleiny Grullon stands at the Jumpstart office bulletin board

Yoleiny Grullon ’15 worked part-time at Jumpstart, an AmeriCorps preschool program at Kean University, while she was pursuing her bachelor’s degree in English literature at the University. 

Eight years after graduating, and now a Kean graduate student, Grullon is back as the Jumpstart program’s site manager.

“It was surreal. It all just tied together, because I'm also a student again, getting my master's in school counseling in Kean. It was like a full 360,” said Grullon, who said she was thrilled to return to the program.

After graduating in 2015, Grullon taught preschool for six years in Perth Amboy, before applying for a job managing a Jumpstart program site at Rutgers University. She got the job, but with a slight change. She learned the Rutgers site was closing, but she could take the site manager position for Kean.

“I knew the importance of being able to make a difference in a child’s life,” she said. “I wanted to just continue creating a safe space for children in the classroom.”

A nonprofit AmeriCorps program, Jumpstart works to help reduce the achievement gap in academic performance between children in underserved communities and others. The program recruits college students to provide extra support in preschool classrooms located in nursery schools, YMCAs or other locations. 

As a Jumpstart worker, Grullon visited area preschools with other Kean student workers. She read stories to the children, led activities and provided other learning support.

Now as site manager at Kean, Grullon does administrative work, recruits both preschools and Kean students, and establishes partnerships with campus organizations such as Bridge to Success and Supera, Kean’s Spanish speaking program.

Many of the preschoolers come from difficult home environments, Grullon said, and when Jumpstart teams visit they “get excited to learn new things.”

“By adding new faces to the classrooms, new support, Jumpstart is adding a little gateway of opportunity. The children actually want to go to school because they know their Jumpstart friends are going to be there,” she said.

Grullon’s supervisor, Senior Site Manager Niksha Davis, said Grullon is a great role model “for those looking to see what is possible when you make serving others a priority.”

She said Grullon “can often be seen spreading joy and encouragement to other students.

“Yoleiny returned to the program and continues to spread the news about Jumpstart,” Davis said. “She is a passionate advocate for the mental health of students and regularly advocates for students of all kinds.”

Grullon said she looks forward to continuing in the Jumpstart organization, and working with both Kean students and preschoolers.

Long term, she said her dream is to open a community-based center to offer counseling services, recreational opportunities and self-awareness activities to help young adults become active members in their community.

“I hope that I am able to inspire and motivate others who come from a similar cultural background to not fall victim to perceived limitations, because you never know where you will end up,” she said.