New Students Get a Jump on the School Year

By Charles McKenzie, September 7, 2018
Jumpstart program allows students to get to know their classmates and community.

A week before most students had settled in at Ithaca College, a group of incoming first-year and transfer students came to campus early to forge bonds with one another and venture out into the greater Ithaca community. As part of IC’s Jumpstart program, 205 students participated in one of four distinct experiences where they volunteered for local organizations, learned about sustainability, gained outdoor adventure skills, or built upon their leadership abilities.

The students who joined the Community Plunge group, for example, spent two days volunteering at Ithaca schools, community centers and nonprofits.

For Preston Desch ’22, an integrated marketing communications major, the Community Plunge was a great way to continue his commitment to service. During high school spring breaks, he traveled to Nicaragua to teach English and to a Native American reservation in North Dakota to help build facilities.

“I need a physical aspect to my life,” he said, sanding the “troll house” at the Ithaca Children’s Garden as the group sung along to Disney music blasted over a wireless speaker. “It’s been great to work beside so many nice people and to have fun doing it.”

He said he also liked learning about the city. “I’m from Chicago and don’t have a car here, so I got to see parts of Ithaca that I never would have on my own,” he said.

Students at the Children’s Garden also cut back overgrown vines and reset the garden’s “Anarchy Zone,” an area where children explore and play independently with a variety of unusual objects.

“They are all so enthusiastic and in a great mood,” said Jean Gerow, the facilities manager of the children’s garden. “We have limited staff, and when our summer interns leave, it’s just me doing site work. Having them come in helps us get a lot of physical work done. It’s like having 50 hours’ worth of work all at once.”

Many students from the Community Plunge program continue to volunteer for the same local nonprofits throughout the school year.

The other three Jumpstart programs are ECHO, the GREEN Tour and Lead-In.

ECHO (Experiencing Connections by Heading Outdoors) is an overnight camping trip where students work together to hone their outdoor adventure skills while helping to protect the environment.

The GREEN Tour (Gardening, Recycling, Eating, Enjoying Nature) takes the group via bus and kayak through the Finger Lakes to teach them about sustainability and locally sourced food. They visit farms, parks, the Ithaca Farmers Market and geological wonders like Taughannock Falls.

The other part of the program is Lead-In, which helps future student leaders get involved right away in the IC community by building their leadership skills through team-building exercises, including some on a ropes course. They are also introduced to student groups and student leaders.

Learn more

For more information about the Jumpstart program, visit