Current Issue
This Month's Print Issue

Follow Fast Company

We’ll come to you.

Social Capitalists

By Michael Prospero


Boston, Massachusetts

Founded: 1994
Field: Education
Budget: $5.9 million

How do you solve a national teaching shortage and help disadvantaged preschoolers at the same time? Jumpstart -- an organization founded in 1993 that pairs pedagogically minded college students with 3- to 5-year-olds who need help with reading and social skills -- might have the answer.

  • Entrepreneurship: B+
  • Innovation: B+
  • Social Impact: B+
  • Aspiration: B+
  • Sustainability: A-

First-graders from low-income families have a vocabulary one-fourth the size of their peers, says Rob Waldron, Jumpstart's CEO since 2002. Its three-tiered program is designed to help struggling tots through one-on-one mentoring, to encourage college students to become teachers, and to involve families in their children's education.

Under Waldron, the former CEO of SCORE! Learning Centers, Jumpstart has grown considerably, from 20 centers and $7.2 million in revenue in 2002 to 44 centers and $9.6 million in revenue today. Restructuring the organization in 2002 into four geographical regions -- northeast, mid-Atlantic, southern, and western -- also made for a more cost-effective business model.

Teaming up with Head Start and AmeriCorps, Jumpstart's 1,600 student teachers now work with more than 6,000 children in 43 communities. Over the next two years, Waldron wants to double the number of preschoolers in the program, and by 2006, he hopes to enroll 25,000 children nationwide.

The program has proven successful in two ways. Children in Jumpstart show an average 28% improvement in reading and social skills, and 30% of the college students who never previously considered teaching apply for Head Start jobs after participating in Jumpstart.

Jumpstart was also instrumental in helping AmeriCorps out of a $100 million jam last June. Through a bureaucratic accounting error, the national community-service organization was set to lose 20,000 of its 50,000 volunteer positions. Led by Waldron, Jumpstart rallied 900 organizations in support of AmeriCorps and ended up raising $1 million more than needed. The additional funding also helped Jumpstart expand from 33 to 44 sites.

"After that happened, I just kept thinking, 'Send me another crisis -- I liked the last one!'" Waldron says. "It was a helluva thing -- a true test of the organization."

Jumpstart also works with corporations such as American Eagle Outfitters, Newman's Own, Starbucks, and Bank One, which recently started a program that donates $5 to Jumpstart every time someone signs up for a credit card -- the cost of one hour's worth of tutoring.

One of Jumpstart's largest national sponsors has been Pearson Education, which worked with Jumpstart to create a textbook used by teachers to implement the program's curriculum. Pearson also established a $2.5 million, three-year teaching fellowship that offers selected Jumpstart teachers a two-year postgraduate teaching fellowship with HeadStart. In 2002, the program placed 29 fellows in seven cities.

With an expanded program, "the results could be extraordinary," Waldron says. "I hope people will look at Jumpstart in 20 years as they look at Habitat for Humanity and the Girl Scouts today."


Robert Waldron, President and CEO

Robert Waldron joined Jumpstart in April 2002. Before Jumpstart, he served as a fellow at Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government. Waldron was the CEO of Score! Learning Centers and the vice president of Kaplan Inc. Waldron was also an associate at Morgan Stanley Inc. Waldron is a member of the Young Presidents' Organization, an adviser to Vanu Inc. and a former member of the Advisory Council on Education Statistics for the U.S. Department of Education. He graduated from Northwestern University and Harvard Business School.

Learn more about the Fast Company Social Capitalist Fund.

Return to the Social Capitalist Awards directory.