JumpStart’s mission is to inspire Cedar Rapids children to reach their educational potential by teaching vital lessons in leadership and academics as part of free sports programming at the Robert W. Plaster Athletic Complex.

The Program


  • July 8-10
  • July 15-17
  • July 22-24
  • July 29-31


  • 5:00-8:00 PM


  • All of our activities are taking place on campus. This includes the Robert W. Plaster Athletic Complex and Rinderknecht Athletic Center.


  • JumpStart is completely free of charge. Meals are included.

Year-Round Activities

  • Basketball league
  • Volleyball league
  • Mount Mercy sporting events
  • On-campus activities
  • Arts and crafts
  • Lunch Buddy Program
  • Halloween on the Hill

Our Coaches

Our coaching staff consists of Mount Mercy students. The goal is to have fun and influence the kids in a positive way from the experience our students have made so far.

Social distancing guidelines will be enforced for the safety of children, coaches, and staff.

JumpStart Coaches

The following students are our JumpStart coaches for this year. Find out more about them!


Hello! My name is Barry, and this is my second year working with JumpStart. I enjoy getting to know new kids every summer and continuing those relationships throughout the year with our LunchBuddies’ program. Our program is growing on a large scale, and I am excited to not only meet the kids, but also their wonderful families.During the quarantine, I liked to take extra naps with my daughter, or play video games with my friends online. Keeping up with school while we moved to online classes has gave me an opportunity to read lots of fun books.

Cassi-Forsythe.jpegMy name is Cassandra Forsythe, but most people call me Cassy. I am currently a junior, majoring in psychology with a double minor in sport, health & exercise psychology and human resource management. I am one of the head coaches for JumpStart, a member of the bowling team, a percussionist in the band, vice president of the Psychology Club, treasurer of the SIHRM Club, and a weekend radio host at Z102.9. I work at LearningRX as a cognitive brain trainer, and I am a freshman mentor in the Project Connect program. I am very involved, but it helps me make connections and pushes me to try new things.
Mija-Cotton.jpgHello Everybody! My name is Mija! (You are probably trying to figure out how to say my name, huh? It’s pronounced “my-ah”) I can’t wait to get to know you all. I’m so excited for what this summer has in store! Until then here is a little about me. I am a healthcare administration student and enjoy being involved at college in anyway that I can. I am the president of our activities and programming board, so I help plan all the FUN activities on campus. My favorite part is when we have inflatables! Another cool thing is that I get to live with my best friend! Outside of school I have two jobs. I also enjoy doing anything outdoors, and camping with my family is one of my favorite summer activities!
During quarantine I have successfully annoyed our cat, watched movies, and made cookies! I have also been able to spend quality time with my niece - oh, and drinking LOTS of Dr. Pepper. Holy cow! I just realized my mom is a COVID-19 expert. She always told me to wash my hands and cover my mouth when I sneeze or cough. How lucky am I? Stay safe and healthy!  

avery-anderson.jpgMy name is Avery Anderson, and I’m super excited to be joining the JumpStart team! I am a freshman music education major, and love to stay very involved on the Mount Mercy University campus. Over the past few weeks of quarantine, I’ve spent my time doing online school work, reading, and having cookout-picnics. It’s been a great way to enjoy the outdoors with a small group! 

jeanette-blasi.JPGHello JumpStart kiddos and family members! It’s me, Jeanette Blasi. I am a junior here at Mount Mercy University studying psychology. I enjoy reading and watching sci-fi, playing fetch with my 9-month-old kitten named Rajah, and napping. 

Since quarantine, I have binge watched too many Netflix and Disney+ movies and shows that I have lost count. Rajah has kept me on a schedule where she wakes me every morning for food and play time far too early. When I am not catering to Rajah’s needs, doing school work, or binge watching Netflix. My roommate and I have started doing Zumba workouts. 
I am more than ready to get back to our outdoor facilities with my JumpStart family for endless fun and good food. 
I’m Becca Francois from Rosemount, Minnesota. I’m a sophomore nursing major, and I’m involved with the track team and student ambassadors. I'm the youngest of six in my family, and I have five nieces and nephews with two more on the way. I’m a huge sucker for any candy that is chewy or gummy, like Skittles or Mike and Ikes. I also love being outdoors. My quarantine consisted of traveling to upstate New York to see my sister and her family and studying for all of my tests.

ben-stecklein.jpgMy name is Ben Stecklein, and I am from Cascade, Iowa, which is a small farming community in eastern Iowa. I am a very active person who is often either working or working out when I can. When I am not working or working out, I like to spend the rest of my time with my friends and family. My family and friends are very important to me because they have 

helped guide and mold me into the person I am today, and I thank them for all that they have done for me and continue to do for me. During this long quarantineI have spent a lot of my time with my friends and family playing card games and watching movies, but by far the most interesting thing that my family and I have begun doing is having a joke time every night. My family sees this time in history with the COVID-19 epidemic as a sort of sad time, and the best way to combat it in their eyes is with some humor. My joke for today is, "Where does a dog go when he loses his tail? The re-TAIL store." Most of my jokes are puns that my family just rolls their eyes at, but I know that they still enjoy. 

Hello JumpStart Family! My name is Brooklynn Ossman, and this is my second year doing JumpStart! During this quarantine pandemic I have been working more hours within the emergency department helping out many patients and spending time doing my online classes for nursing (woohoo)! When I am not working or doing homework, I have enjoyed catching up on sleep (lots of sleep) or spending this time with my family playing board games, video games, and having some cooking competitions. I have three younger brothers that I love being a mentor for and they continue to amaze me every day. I also started a bullet journal to keep my mind busy! I am excited for another year of JumpStart and look forward to mentoring some amazing future leaders!

royshawn-webb.jpegMy name is RoyShawn Webb I am currently a junior here at Mount Mercy and I am a psychology major. Some of the things that I have been doing during this time are, staying on top of school work, finding ways to continue to stay active, and taking advantage of this time to spend time with my family. 
anike-elias.jpgAmakuru - what’s that you don’t understand? Well, that’s hello in Kirundi. My name is Anike Elias and I’m a sophomore at Mount Mercy University. This is my first year as a JumpStart coach. I was born in Tanzania, Africa and immigrated with my family to Atlanta, Georgia in 2007. After a couple of years, we relocated to Cedar Rapids, Iowa. I graduated from Thomas Jefferson High School which makes me a first-generation student. I´m an education major with an emphasis in history and English as a second language and minor diversity studies. My favorite hobbies are dancing and of course eating. I am fluent in 3 languages which are Kirundi, Swahili, and English. During this quarantine, I spent a lot of time with my big family and on some school work.
zach.jpegI came to Mount Mercy from Naperville, Illinois, to play collegiate volleyball, be a part of the band, and study political science with secondary education. Now, I coachclub volleyball at Adrenaline and freshmen at Xavier High School. My freshman year, I was the founder and president of MMU’s environmental club, called ECO, and continue to be an active member in the sustainability community. When I’m not going to class or coaching volleyball, I like to be outside playing sand volleyball and basketball, hiking, or watching movies. During quarantine I've been spending time with family and keeping up with classes. Lately, I’ve been doing a lot of yard work and checking in on my players, JumpStart kids, and friends through Zoom. My family tries to watch a new movie every night after a few rounds of UNO, and I learned very quickly that my sister Morgan (who´s 17), does not have good taste in movies.
kayla-daggett.jpgMy name is Kayla Daggett, and I am from Madison, Wisconsin. I am the youngest in a family of five, and I have played volleyball at Mount Mercy for the past three years. I love being outside, playing sports, and spending time with my friends and family. If I could have one superpower it would be to teleport to anywhere in the world because I love to travel. During quarantine I have been doing a lot of sleeping, cleaning, and spending time outside. My roommates and I watch a new movie every night so we will always have something to do. 
abbi-kinnaird.JPGHello - I am Abbi Kinnaird, currently a junior at Mount Mercy, an elementary education major, and an athlete on the basketball team! This is my second year of JumpStart, and I absolutely love spending my nights with your kids. It truly is a dream. During this quarantine, I have spent a lot of time nannying for a family of four girls and a family with a sweet baby boy. If we are not going on walks, we are doing arts and crafts. When I am not nannying, I am working out at home, going on walks with my puppies, or doing homework. I am typically also preparing to coach high school softball during this time, but all of that is a slow work in progress. I hope you guys are enjoying all the time spent with family and staying healthy! Hope to see you all soon!
alma-apolonio.JPGHi! My name is Alma Apolonio Bernal. I just finished my junior year here at MMU, and I'm majoring in social work. I was born in California, lived there a few years, and then moved to Iowa City. On campus, I'm involved in many activities, from working as a peer coach in our Academic Center for Excellence (ACE), meeting with prospective students as a student ambassador, and building relationships with my residents as a resident assistant. I am not only a first-gen college student, but I'm also the first one in my family to be born in the U.S. and the second oldest of five. During this quarantine, I've spent more time with my family and have increased the amount of FaceTime calls with my friends. I've also started running again and dedicating more time to reading.

I actually did JumpStart last year ... I knew I really enjoyed it, and it was something I wanted to do again. So, when I found out I had the opportunity to do it again, I wanted to do it. I just like bonding with the coaches and just hanging out with all the other kids.