HOP gets struggling students to jump back on track

AMESBURY - In the five years that the Amesbury-based Homework Outreach Program has been in existence, not one child who attended regularly has stayed back, the group's brochure brags.

But this perfect record was almost broken this past school year.

Anthony Ultrino, a 13-year-old student at Amesbury Middle School, started his school year off on the wrong foot, and after the first quarter, he was identified by the school as "likely to stay behind."

Anthony said that Brian Hopkins, his eighth-grade science teacher, had been urging him to go into the after-school HOP program, but he just kept refusing, until he finally changed his mind.

HOP is part of the Jumpstart Youth Connection, founded by two teachers at the Amesbury Middle School, eighth-grade social studies teacher Joseph Costello and technology teacher James Queenan. JumpStart is a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing children in need with positive educational and social experiences, according to its brochure.

Through HOP, Anthony's report card went from Fs to As.

"Whenever I had things I didn't understand, they knew ways to help me," said Anthony. "They would never give me answers, but instead, show me the ways to get them."

Anthony was one mark away from honor roll last marking period and his mother, Samantha, could not be more enthusiastic about it.

"Sometimes kids who are struggling - they get written off," she said. "With JumpStart, they really have a wonderful program with great leaders who are true advocates for the children."

Costello is also particularly proud of Anthony, who he said has been an amazing success story. "Anthony is the reason we do this type of thing," he said. "Everybody is proud of him for what he has done but, most importantly, he is proud of himself."

Anthony, who turns 14 in August, will be going into the ninth grade this fall and his mother credits both Anthony and HOP for his commencement. "If he didn't have these people and this program, I'm not even sure he would be going into high school this year," she said. "It's wonderful, I can't say enough about it."

JumpStart Youth Connection is funded by Health and Education Services, The Provident Bank, The Newburyport Five Cents Savings Bank, TD Banknorth, The Institution for Savings, Laurie Knapp CPA, Attorney Paul Gagliardi, and the Department of Mental Health. For more information or to make a donation, call Joe Costello at 978-807-5761.