An Ole Miss sophomore dedicates her free time to Leap Frog, a nonprofit, after-school, tutoring and mentoring program that helps at-risk elementary school kids in Oxford.
Jacqueline Falcon said most children in the program come from low income or single parent homes, and Leap Frog gives them a chance to improve in school.
“We are making sure they move on in school,” Falcon said. “We also make sure they are more confident and feel better about themselves. They need to know they can do it, and just because everything might not be right for them, doesn’t mean that it should hold them back.”
Falcon’s love for kids and volunteering came from her mom, who teaches in an impoverished part of Dallas.
“She was such a positive light,” Falcon said. “She gives them a reason to go to school. She is very inspirational to me, and it is because of her, I started volunteering with Leap Frog. If I could be half the person she is, I would be doing something right.”
Falcon has been involved in her community for as long as she can remember through Girl Scouts, church groups, student council and other organizations.
“The simplest things make them happy,” Falcon said. “There is nothing better than seeing a child’s face light up and knowing you are the reason behind it.”
When Falcon heard about Leap Frog through College Core, she could not say no.
“In my sorority, we do service projects and hours each semester,” Falcon said. “As nice as it is to buy something for someone, I realized I wanted to do more. I wanted to physically do something. Many people don’t want to get involved unless they get something in return, and that’s what really bothers me.”
Falcon said her average day involves setting up the right materials, making sure children get fed, and signing them in with tutors. Although she is a tutor herself, her favorite part is the mentoring hour because that is when she gets to interact with kids.
“I believe in the power of a good role model,” Falcon said. “We are giving these children someone to look up to. I want to be the reason why a child looks forward to coming to school. As cliché as it might sound, we really are changing their lives.”
Interacting with the children gives her the chance to show them how much she cares.
“Some kids have eight brothers and sisters,” Falcon said. “This is two hours a day for them when they don’t have to worry about anything else. All the attention is on them, and that’s what it’s really about.”
Teacher Darlene Manger works in a special day class and sees the frustration her students face daily. She believes after-school programs like Leap Frog are vital.
“It’s so hard to see a child struggle and have no confidence in themselves when I know they can do it,” Manger said. “When you can see a child improve in . . . their reading level, for example, they gain confidence in so many different areas in their lives.”
As a psychology and sociology major, Falcon is not quite sure what career path she wants to take in the future, but she knows she will not stop giving back to her community.
“I’ll always continue to volunteer no matter what I end up doing in life,” Falcon said. “I’ve grown up with it, and it’s become a part of who I am. Ideally, I’d like to work for or start my own non-profit organization, but for now I’m concentrating on the kids.”
Falcon said Leap Frog has truly changed her life in every way possible.
“It’s just really humbling,” she said. “It brings me back to earth and makes me realize how grateful I am for my life, and how my problems are so minuscule compared to what they go through on a daily basis.”
Leap Frog will soon celebrate its 25th anniversary. Falcon encourages others to become involved.