Hello everyone, and welcome back to our VISTA Spotlight Series! Every month, we shine a light on one of our dedicated AmeriCorps VISTA Members, showcasing the incredible work they contribute. At the core of our program, it’s the combined efforts of our members and their host sites that make it truly special.

This month we can spotlight the great service done by our Jumpstart VISTA at Duke University, Elissa Brady! Elissa has the great opportunity to be the very first Jumpstart VISTA through AmeriCorps.  Jumpstart’s program aims to close the kindergarten readiness gap by partnering with organizations to deliver high quality educational programming to children before they enter kindergarten.

Before starting her service started in August, Elissa graduated from Union College in Schenectady, NY with a bachelor’s degree in neuroscience.  Since relocating to the Durham area and starting her service Elissa has done great work building the capacity and expanding the reach of the Jumpstart programs for Duke and the Durham community.

Currently the Jumpstart programs serve 5 preschool sites in the community by enriching the quality of kindergarten readiness and success in under-resourced communities in Durham. Elissa has the opportunity to assist with the expansion of prekindergarten programming, through the prekindergarten partner sites, recruitment, event coordination and program marketing to meet the needs of both Duke students and prekindergarten learners.

Elissa is most proud of the valuable insights and knowledge she has gained about community engagement through her year of service with the Jumpstart Program at Duke. This experience has not only deepened her understanding of the importance of community involvement in education but has also allowed her to witness the positive impact that dedicated students can have on fostering a culture of learning and support within communities. It has strengthened her belief in the power of education to create positive environments, ultimately optimizing social determinants of health.

After Elissa completes her year of service this summer, she hopes to continue her work in rural areas, where she is deeply committed to addressing critical areas of need, particularly focusing on enhancing education and bolstering public health initiatives. Elissa is driven by a sense of purpose and a dedication to creating a brighter future for those in underserved regions and she looks forward to leveraging her skills and experiences to contribute meaningfully to the well-being of these communities beyond her initial service commitment.

This spotlight blog was written with the support and information from Elissa by Madeline DeLorenzo.