Knitting. The idea probably conjures up images of an elderly woman sitting in a rocking chair by a fireplace on a cold winter’s night.
Think again, because knitting is not just for grandmothers. Students are using this pastime to help the community by knitting for children.
Sophomore Allison McDermott, a tourism and hospitality management major, said she got into knitting because of an RA’s program last semester in Temple Towers.
“They had a sign in our dorm that there was going to be a knitting class and the first 20 people to show up got free needles and yarn and [my roommates and I] were like Christmas is coming up and we need gifts,” McDermott said, “We learned and taught our other roommates and made everyone we knew scarves for Christmas.”
Yarn balls shrank and the scarves grew longer and multiplied in the girl’s dorm. Then they heard of Knit for Kids through a Temple Today e-mail.
The program is a part of Jumpstart, a national campus-based organization that fosters literacy in preschool children through college student involvement.
Knit for Kids held two meetings where 36 students participated. They were able to knit 94 scarves and hats for the children.
Kat Ngo, site manager of Jumpstart at the University, got the idea for Knit for Kids from Kara Yanochko, a core member of Jumpstart.
“I thought I could learn to knit and do some good,” Ngo said.
Ngo did not learn how to knit because she was too busy running the programs, but said she was surprised by how many scarves and hats the volunteers knitted.
Jumpstart is an independent non-profit organization supported by AmeriCorps with sites at 66 different colleges and universities in 57 different communities.
“AmeriCorps started under [former President] Clinton and is like a domestic Peace Corps,” Ngo said.
The Jumpstart program gives college students the opportunity to earn work study wages and also a $1000 grant upon completion of 300 hours of service, according to Ngo.
The students, or core members, work 12 hours a week with preschool children in the classroom and one on one after school.
“Each core member is paired with one child for the entire year so they get to know them better,” Ngo said. “The main focus of Jumpstart is literacy.”
Core members go through training to learn what Jumpstart calls “a results-driven, research-based curriculum to enhance the educational efforts.”
Jumpstart, in its first year at Temple, has over 23 members working in three schools directly around campus.
Danielle Marshall, North East Regional program director of Jumpstart said the quality of Jumpstart’s first year at Temple was very strong.
“I would like to see the core expand to 40 members,” Marshall said. “I’d love it to expand to work with more schools because there is a need for more programs like Jumpstart.”
The Knit for Kids scarves and hats were distributed to children in Temple’s Jumpstart program based on need, size and color preference Ngo said. The rest of the winter wear went to William McKinley Elementary School and its Head Start program to be distributed to other children lacking appropriate winter clothing.
Brenda Carroll has been a teacher assistant at Duckrey Elementary on Diamond Street for 32 years and has a granddaughter, Kabreya Carroll, in Jumpstart. “It’s just a wonderful program, I wish more students would come and help,” she said.
Carroll said the children loved the scarves as well. “My granddaughter cannot leave without her scarf, even on those warm days we had!”
Maryann Smith, a preschool teacher at Duckrey Elementary for 31 years, said the parents are enthusiastic about the program.
“I’ve seen very shy children blossom,” Smith said. “I just wish the program was larger.”
Ngo hopes next year to start Knit for Kids in November, and to have even more Temple students participate and get more scarves and hats to more children earlier in the winter season.
For more information on Jumpstart, visit www.jstart.org.
Josh Chamberlain can be reached at Joshch@temple.edu.