Thank You!

by Helen Leslie

I began working for the Head Start in 1995 as a Teacher. I loved working in a rural community--it gave me the opportunity to study and earn my CDA. During that time my granddaughter, Casey, moved back into my home with her mom. Casey began attending the Head Start program where I work in another classroom. Today, Casey is a Sophomore at the University of Arizona, studying to be a geologist. I left Head Start to raise two of my grandchildren. It was a rough time and choices had to be made. I love working with children, but the need was at home. Fortunately, I qualified for the program as a parent, I enrolled my two grandchildren in the program in Tucson where we moved. We had a wonderful in home educator named Sandra who still works for the program. I ran into her at early childhood workshops. My grandchildren and I looked forward to her visits and we looked forward to going to the classroom each week. We met our goals, thanks to the loving support we received. My granddaugther, Miette, continued to attend the program until she started kindergarten. Both of my grandchildren that I am raising are successful in school; one is in 7th grade, excelling with State standards, and the other in 5th grade in the gifted program, they both are where they are at because of the support we received from all the caring staff we have encounter through Head Start. Head Start has been apart for my life since 1995 in different ways. I recently applied for a scholarship to attend their Mental Health Symposium in Phoenix, AZ and was selected. I look forward to staying connected even though I no longer work for the program. Thank you Head Start for keeping me in the loop one way or another.

My Tears of Joy

by Linda Wilson

My son attended Head Start 31 years ago in Phoenix, AZ. in the Roosevelt Head Start Program. When he was enrolled in the program I had no idea of what was happening. Being a young and single mom, I had no clue of what I was supposed to be doing with my child. Once I enrolled him, they informed me that he needed updated immunizations, a physical, and dental exam. I was way behind on his medical. 

The first day he started school (mind you he had never been with any other children) he cried and I cried. He cried for at least month each time I dropped him off and I cried each time I had to leave him. One day the teacher talked with me and advised me they could pick him up from home and it may make it easier for the both of us. She said she would have him picked up first and he would be to chose any seat he wanted and he would be dropped off first.

The first day they picked him up, he got on the van without crying and left me standing there crying. He never looked backed and enjoyed the program until the day he graduated.

I started working for Head Start as a Caseworker over  21 years ago. I had an encounter with a teacher and talked about my son (who was in high school) to her. She immediately knew him as she was his teacher when he was in the program. I told him that evening I met her and she was the teacher of one of my classes. He knew who she was and told me he had never forgotten her. He remembered her name and all that she had done for him

The program has done wonders for us. From the day he entered into the program neither one of us has looked backed. He is doing well venturing out into entrepreneurship. He believes in the youth and continues to work with them keeping them involved in healthy activities.

As for myself, I completed my goal of going to college. I obtained my Bachelors and Master's. I started the Ph.D program but took a leave to get married and spend time with my husband.

I still work with Head Start and truly enjoy the work I do. I started out as a Caseworker in the Phoenix program and worked there for 15 years. I moved to the Bay area and work with a Head Start program as a Family and Health Manager. I work in a mostly Asian program and enjoy the diversity of the program and the opportunity to work with different ethnic people.

I truly believe if I had not enrolled my child in the Head Start program I would not be where I am at today. While in the program, I was able to attend school and complete the dreams that I always wanted. The program also showed me how important it was to be involved in my child's health, become an advocate for my child, and what was important in the development of my child.

Thanks to Head Start for my success and that of all other children and families. Now when I see small children (no matter what ethnic background) I always ask the parent is the child enrolled in school, and if not I refer them to the nearest Head Start program.

Wonderful Experience

by Muna Hadad 

Both of my boys attended Head Start through the city of Phoenix. My boys learned social skills, leadership skills, how to solve problems, and even eating family style. They also learned how to speak English. They were kindergarten ready. The experience made my boys sucessful in school that I applied for a job with Head Start as a case worker. I have been in my current postion for the past 8 years. I enjoy making a difference in the lives of our clients. In my opinion every child in the US should have the opportunity to attend Head Start.

Wonderful Experience

by Muna Haddad

Both of my boys attended head start through the city of Phoenix.  My boys learned social skills, leadership skills, how to solve problems, eating family style. Learned how to speak English. They were kindergarten ready. The experience made my boys sucessful in school and I applied for a job with head start as a case worker.  I have been in my current postion for the past 8 years.  I enjoy making a difference in the lives of our clients.  In my opinion every child in the US should have the opportunity to attend Head Start. 

A Stepping Stone to Build a Foundation

by Leonila Paredes

My Name is Leonila (Nellie) Paredes, and I always state that my career with Head Start began over 35 years ago when my parents enrolled me as a student at West Side ~ Enchanted Hills Head Start, in Tucson AZ, at the age of four.  To this day, I still remember my teachers, Mrs. Dixon and Ms. Sarah.  This is how my mother, who at the time was a stay at home mom of three, began volunteering.

Following my graduation and transition from Head Start to public school, my mother continued to volunteer at the local Head Start center and gave birth to my youngest sister, Indelisa.  A year later, she was offered a position as an on-call Substitute.  The following year she was hired as a co-teacher and completed her CDA.  My mother continued her career in Head Start for over ten years, becoming a Center Director.  A few years later, she transitioned to another agency working with in home caregivers.

My first year of college, as Spring Break approached, I began to volunteer at Southside Head Start.  I found that even though I was majoring in another area of study, that I truly enjoyed working with the children.  The teacher that I volunteered with, Maria Saavedra, recommended that I apply for a substitute position, so that I could continue my studies and also work and get experience with children. 

The following year I was hired as a co-teacher, at the age of 18, at Menlo Park Head Start.  Two years later, I completed my CDA and was almost done with my first AAS.  My third year employed for Child Parent Centers Inc. ~ Head Start, I changed positions, becoming a Family Educator at South Tucson Head Start.  Four years later, South Tucson Head Start combined with Southside Head Start, the same center that I first had begun volunteering at.  Currently I am entering my 21st year, and am still employed at Southside Head Start, as an Early Head Start Family Educator.

To state that Head Start has influenced my life in a positive way is a HUGE understatement.  It affected my whole family’s life!  Over 35 years ago, Head Start gave my mother the encouragement and empowered her to reach her own personal goals, becoming a true example to us her children.  Head Start was a foundation that our family needed to build upon to set our own goals and move forward!  

Head Start was a stepping-stone in my own pursuits of a higher education and personal goals.  I can state that I truly love my career. It has been a true honor having the opportunity to work with the children and families that are enrolled in my program.  Each year brings new challenges and changes, but it amazes me that families open their home and family life each year to work one-on-one with them and their children.  I am truly blessed to be part of the builders of many stepping-stones and foundations honoring families and children.  I truly believe families are the first and most important teachers in a child’s life!  I feel that parents are looking for a Better and Brighter Future for their children!

Truly Grateful to be part of the Head Start Family!
Leonila B. Paredes
EHS Family Educator at Southside Head Start
Tucson, AZ

28 years of Empowerment

By Adela Torres

The time was the year when Duran Duran and Phil Collins had several hits. We Are the World was created for the Aid for Africa. Movies like Rocky IV and the Color Purple stood on the Marques as Box office hits. Average income per year averaged at a $22,100.00, price of gas was $1.09 and movie tickets at $2.75. Yes those were the days my friend. Has anyone guessed? 1985. Such a rewarding moment of my live; as I was born into the wonderful family of the Maricopa County Head Start. The program helped me realize what a rich Latin culture I was born into, and to never forget my roots. Professional development consisted of being a Teacher Aide, Teacher, Site Supervisor and a Wellness Coordinator. My last nine years I had the opportunity of becoming a Mentor Teacher Specialist. In delivering the Head Start honorable components of the program; I applied these components to my own personal life. Through the tremendous life skills, I learned how to you work it, and work it to the best of your ability so that someday I could pay it forward. Yes, now is the time for me to pay it forward, I will be retiring this February 13th, 2013, which makes my first day of retirement begin on Valentine’s Day. Therefore, I am entering into a new chapter of Love; as I continue to be of service to others. I will be volunteering in the program with integrity and contentment as I proceed on working with the Head Start Staff, Children and their Families.

Professional Development

by Katrina Relph-Mueller

The Head Start Program began changing my life back in 1999 when I applied to an agency that worked with low income children.  I was a single mother, going to school full-time and employed at a cafeteria.  I was looking for employment that would be challenging and fulfilling; working with children who were at risk was something I thought would really interest me.  I had very little experience working with children but had taken Developmental Psychology and Child Development courses at the university.  It was a start.  I was one computer class away from graduating with a Bachelor Degree.  
I submitted my application not thinking I would get a call.  But I did!  They asked me for an interview.  The interview was unexpected.  I walked into a classroom with small chairs and tables, 2 parents and the center manager.  I was asked a series of questions and as I walked out the door I felt I had blown the interview.  I got a call the next day and they wanted me to be the special services aid!  It was 40 hours a week job, steady hours and I home by 4pm, no more nights away from my children.  

Once I started it was apparent that education was important to Head Start.  Within weeks I had a plan in place to increase my child development knowledge and was signed up for the Child Development Associates.  I already had an AA and almost finished with my BA but this didn’t prepare me for the classroom as much as I had hoped.  The CDA really helped build my skills.  The agency paid for the credential and I put in the hours completing it in less than a year.  Eventually Head Start paid for my final computer class and I had my BA!  

An opening occurred and I moved up to the assistant teacher position and eventually teacher.  We receive annual training 15 hours plus individualized technical assistance which really helped me develop systems to organize and handle my children and family files.  The agency also taught us to advocate, dress professionally and keep informed of the Head Start Initiatives and political climate.  Lifelong learning is also a concept I have learned from Head Start; trends in Early Childhood change and develop as research and more is learned about child development.  We are always growing with research based information.

As time went on I learned the comprehensive philosophy of family involvement and moved to another position; family advocate and now I am the Family Coordinator for the agency.  Head Start supported me with this decision and has helped me by paying for classes, conferences and training workshops to enhance skills in the Family/Social Services field.  I love what I do!  I love the families that we work with.  I understand the challenges that the parents face and I try to continually give back to the families what Head Start had given me…a future that is based on my desires and interests.  

Thank you Head Start!

Everyone Deserves a Head Start

by Dr. Rose French 

I was raised by a single mother who worked, while going to school and raising three small girls. Head Start gave myself and my sisters the opportunity to have a great early education, and I believe, have a strong impact on how hard work and education lead to success.

Today, I am a professional classical musician who travels the world performing, and teaching at two colleges in the Phoenix, AZ area.  My way of giving back to those in need is by teaching at Rosie's House: A Music Academy for Children, which gives free music instruction and free instruments to students in the program.  

Everyone needs a mentor and I found my first one at Head Start: Mrs. Kitzmiller, Hanover, PA.

The Whole Head Start Experience

by Natalie Alvarez

In 1992 I enrolled my 4 year old in Golden Gate Head Start. One the first day of school I signed him, he walked afew feet and then turned around and said, "Bye Mommy." I cried all the was down the hall, he was so little. 

I share that story with my Head Start parents, 19 years later. I am a Head Start Director at Greater Phoenix Urban League Head Start.

I was on the policy committee, volunteered regularly and encourged to apply for a teacher assistant position. I thought, "can I do this?" The program developed my parenting skills, teaching skills and my leadership skills.

Both of my boys went to Head Start and they, I might say, are very intelligent, caring young men. They will talk about their teachers, the computer they got to use and still remember songs.

I feel I have a duty to pass it foward, the Head Star experience. I see what a great need there is for Head Start. I don't think most dicision makers know what a support Head Start is to many children and families. Children like coming to school. Children like to learn. 

My story may go on and on but we are  the villiage that children need.

Little Leslie

by Leslie R.

I am a teacher of a four and five year old classroom.   Many refugee families from Somolia, Sudan, and India have established thier homes in our community.  My first year building partnerships with these families was a life changing experience.  I had a family from Somolia which spoke very little English.  Mom was about four months pregnant. As Dad would drop off their child I would ask for Mom and her pregnancy was going. For two weeks I continued to ask Dad how Mom and baby were doing and he kept saying the same thing, "baby no good."  As part of our Head Start partnership, staff make several home visits throughout the year.  This is why we made sure to schedule the home visit.  With hand gestures and neighborhood children translating; I inquired as to how Mom and baby were doing.  Mom stated that her baby was "no good" because she was so sick and just holding on for dear life.  She was pale and lifeless. They simply thought that she had to suffer the pain until the baby was born. I immediately wrote up a letter and begged her to go straight to the hospital.  The letter explained how she had been so sick and unable to care for herself or her unborn child.  Later that night they took her to the hospital and she had to have emergency surgery.  Her apendix had been ruptured for some time.  After Mom's recovery she and baby were healthy and growing right on target.  The family was grateful that we were able to guide them and encouraged them into taking Mom to the hospital.  Now, four years later, this baby that was thought to be "no good" is attending Head Start in the four and five year old classroom.  She comes into the center to visit me with a giant smile on her face and hug that melts my heart away.  I am proud to say that they named her Leslie.  They named her after me, the teacher who saved Mom and baby!  I am honored!  The partnership and relationships that we build with families and their children is priceless. This is the fifth year that this family has participated in the Head Start program. This family is a Head Start success story.  Head Start has truly been a life saver for this family!