Last week, I left work and walked to Hampshire Dining Commons, my absolute favorite dining hall on campus, to meet up with two former Jump! students who I got to know last summer while working as a Student Activities Coordinator for UMass Summer Programs. Jump! is a 4-week summer program for incoming undergrads at UMass Amherst that gives students a head start on everything from college credits to campus life. Jason Zhuo and Nick Pontes are both friendly, outgoing students whose presence in the Jump! program was nothing but positive, so I was excited to see them again!
Now in the second half of their freshman years, Jason is a Computer Science major with a Math minor and Nick is a Chemical Engineering major. Both of the boys noted feeling very prepared for freshman year after completing the Jump! program over the summer.
'"I was already comfortable with the area when I got here," Nick told me, smiling. "I knew all the buildings, the gym, the dining halls, the best food in the dining halls." At this point he turned to Jason and said, "Remember Joanne the Omelet Lady?"
Jason thought for a moment and said, "Yeah I think so. She makes like...really good omelets?"
"Yeah that's her!" Nick said, "I knew Joanne the Omelet lady, and that's great. Plus," he added, "coming into college with friends already is a great confidence booster! You're not forced to be like 'oh I have to be friends with everybody on my floor' because that's what a lot of people do in college. But when you have your friends already, you feel a lot less nervous."
Jason was nodding and he added, "you just feel a lot more confident. You have a head start. You know everything. I was even leading people around when we first got here! It was definitely way easier to transition to college."
We spent the rest of the lunch reminiscing about the fun things we did over the summer (getting ice cream, seeing the Fourth of July fireworks on campus, hanging out in the dorm, and spending time at the local pond and lakes).
"I liked how we were on our own a lot, " Jason reflected, "it's more like actual college."
I also made sure to get feedback from Nick and Jason about how to improve the program for this coming summer. Nick and Jason were two of the thirteen students who joined the Jump! program for its very first year in 2015. Moving forward, the program is growing a lot. This summer, we will have more students, more staff, and even more fun activities, but the foundations the Jump! program will remain the same (two awesome Honors classes and summer New Student Orientation). Our first summer was a summer of fun, friendship, and the excitement of leaving your parents' home and starting your personal journey towards higher education and adulthood. Still missing last summer, I can hardly wait for this year!!
Want to learn more about UMass Jump!? Head over to www.umass.edu/summer/jump. All undergraduates accepted to UMass Amherst for fall 2016 are eligible to register for the program.