Gallaudet’s JumpStart program provided support for 87 incoming freshmen and transfer students to help them make a seamless transition to the University, or to help new signers learn American Sign Language (ASL), before the fall semester began.

With two tracks, Academic Success and New Signers, JumpStart assists students from a variety of backgrounds. Some incoming students may need to develop their ASL skills, while others may need to strengthen academic skills needed for college success: JumpStart provides the resources needed to achieve both.

“Students also get the chance to meet teachers early and get the opportunity to become familiar with the campus. They even get a head start on discussing potential majors and careers,” said Director of Student Success Darian Burwell.

JumpStart is coordinated by Student Success along with First Year Experience staff. Peer counselors-some of whom were former JumpStart students themselves-work with students and help them progress through the five-week program, and this support system continues throughout the year with peer mentors. Peer mentors are assigned to each JumpStart student for a semester to a year, ensuring that they get the support they need outside the classroom.

Students within both tracks are encouraged to get acquainted with each other, especially through participating in Personal Discovery, a program that includes team-building, decision-making, and conflict resolution. This can be especially beneficial for new signers, who can put their new skills to use through interacting with fluent signers and immersing themselves in the new language.

Baseball player and freshman Jeremy Murphy loved his experience learning ASL through JumpStart. “At first I was overwhelmed and worried that no one was going to understand me, and whether or not anyone in the program would be like me,” Murphy said. “But I fell in love with the culture the day I arrived, and I feel like I fit in perfectly with this community.”

– By Tanya Sturgis, student writer

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