Small College Sports

Mount Mercy's Jump Start program aims to help kids build relationships

HS journalism: Program brings inspiration to youth and college coaches

Mount Mercy University's Jump Start program helps young students build relationships. (Mount Mercy University)
Mount Mercy University's Jump Start program helps young students build relationships. (Mount Mercy University)
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Mount Mercy University’s Jump Start program was born a few years ago when the school received a generous investment toward the building of Robert W. Plaster Athletic Complex.

With these new facilities came an acceptance into being a part of the neighborhood.

There are three main components behind a Jump Start program:

l Provide the opportunity for under resourced children to go to sports camps during the summer.

l Partner with local nonprofits like Big Brothers Big Sisters and Iowa Big in order to use the facilities at a low to no-cost basis.

l Be a community partner that provides day programming to help kids stay on track and focus on their academics by giving them a fun atmosphere.

The program will not only help these kids, but the Mount Mercy students as well.

“As for the college students, the hope is that they realize that they, too, can make a difference in others lives and have an impact on someone,” said Nathan Klein, Vice President for Student Success, and assistant business professor at Mount Mercy. “These campers look up to these coaches, and this gives them an opportunity to have some experiential learning and apply what they have already learned and be mentors.

“We want them to go out and live the greatest life, and what better way than to take what they learn in the classroom and give back to our community. That’s where Jump Start was born. Out of this idea that we have been given something, and we want to pay it forward.”

The goal of the program is to reach out to kids in grades third through seventh around the Cedar Rapids area, specifically in Mount Mercy neighborhood.

The kids are allowed to use all the new sports facilities, like the baseball field and soccer field for free.

“The hope is (for the kids) to use these facilities to build a relationship,” said Jason Pershing, assistant athletics director and Jump Start director at the university, “around the leadership and mentorship that our student mentors provide using a summer camp format.

“What the kids get out of it is really multifaceted. Each kid is going to get something different out of the experience. Overall they will get a positive relationship and connect with someone else from the program.”

One of the key relationships the program has is with the Cedar Rapids Police Department.

Allowing kids the opportunity to have some good experiences with the officers whether it’s playing kickball, shooting hoops or just seeing them around, knowing they are there to protect them.

There are eight head coaches and other assistant coaches — all Mount Mercy students and student-athletes — with varying interests and skill sets that will lead a group of the kids.

There many different activities, including:

l Listening to daily guest speakers.

l Leadership teaching.

l Working on life skills and training.

l Going through many different ways to help them become a better person and set them up for success in the long run.

l Provide a meal each day, donated by local food joints.

l And there also will be a movie night with a 50-inch screen on the softball field.

The program kicks off April 26 and May 3. Kids will be able to come to campus for a free two-hour camp. The main camp begins June 12 and will last three weeks. Another three-week camp begins in July after Fourth of July weekend. The final day includes a big awards ceremony or “gala,” as Pershing like to put it.

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