Connecticut

Testimonial

by Jorge Rodriguez V

My name is Jorge Juan Rodriguez V and I am an alumnus of Head Start. I am the son of two Puerto Rican immigrants who came to the United States without knowledge of the language, culture, or setting; all they knew was that America was the land of prosperity and opportunity. Though many would be discouraged by the daunting task of establishing a family in a completely foreign land, my parents took it as a challenge knowing that the possible reward of a better life for themselves and their child far outweighed any possible risk. This drive pushed them to find any and all opportunities, and perhaps the most influential was enrolling me in Head Start.

When I was very young I didn’t speak English because my parents couldn’t teach me a language they didn’t know. Amidst this adversity, my mother was able to enroll me in Head Start. Whilst there I learned English, socialization skills and basic educational skills –letters, numbers, reading, art- which put me ahead of the curve once I got to Kindergarten. Being academically ahead of my peers in Kindergarten meant being ahead of them in first, second, third, fourth grade and so on. Though coming from a very low socio-economic home, the foundational education I received at Head Start propelled me forward through the remainder of my educational career. In elementary school I was identified as a gifted student and placed in programs to further push my skills. This was again true in middle school where my academic achievement served as a stepping stone to attend High School at the prestigious Connecticut International Baccalaureate Academy. I excelled in the rigorous International Baccalaureate curriculum and my academic achievements translated into calls from Yale, Harvard, Connecticut College and many more Universities. I graduated from the IB Academy with my High School Diploma, an International Baccalaureate Diploma, High Honors and was accepted into Gordon College where I received a full, four year scholarship. 

I am currently a sophomore, soon to be junior, at Gordon and I continue to be blessed with achievements and opportunities: I am in three honors programs, have heavily influenced student government, have been to the UN, met many senators and congressmen, written for my school’s various publications, participated in Internships, worked in several different capacities on campus, advocated for various causes in and out of Gordon and am already receiving calls and emails from Graduate Schools and Fellowship Programs. As I look back on my life and reflect on what has gotten me to where I am I identify three things: 1) the Sovereign God in whom I have great faith, 2) my loving parents who have sacrificed, supported and encouraged me in all my ventures, and 3) the amazing education I have received in my life which I wouldn’t have obtained if I did not learn English and establish a strong academic foundation in the Head Start Program. 

As I look forward at my aspirations to unite Philosophy, Theology and the Public Sphere I am deeply convicted and motivated by the words of the Ghanaian diplomat Kofi Annan who states, “Knowledge is power. Information is liberating. Education is the premise of progress, in every society, in every family.” In an age of the 1% and 99%, Republicans and Democrats, Pro-Life and Pro-Choice and the myriad of divisions plaguing this country we need to unite on one thing: education is our first priority. If we do not educate our children and youth this society has no future. It is through education that families, the building blocks of society, progress and therein the society as a whole. The Head Start program is one of the most effective programs I have encountered in my few years of study for providing resources for children and families to progress. 

Were it not for the Head Start program, I would not be where I am today and so I implore you, Congressmen and women, to continue supporting Head Start and every other program which promotes the education and progress of our children, their families and by association our society as a whole. Education is how we progress and it is imperative that we do everything in our power as members of a common society to promote and support it for all.

Read to Children for 17 Years

by Leslie Weinberg

I read to, played with, learned shapes, colors, and days of the week among other things. Being another set of hands and eyes for the Teachers also helped. Many children and some teachers remember me even now. Their scrolls of handprints with their names were unexpected gifts that mean a great deal. I often cried at their graduations. 

Testimonial

by Rosa Guzman

My name is Rosa D. Guzman and I am a Family Advocate at Manchester Head Start. In 1996, my son Jorge Juan Rodriguez V became a student of Head Start. When Jorge began, he didn’t speak English because, though born in the US, my husband and I didn’t speak the language.

Participation in Head Start was one of the best experiences for Jorge and me. With the support of his teachers, Mrs. Messecar and Mrs. L., Jorge learned English, socialization skills and was educationally prepared for a smooth transition into Kindergarten. 

I served as a volunteer at Head Start when Jorge was a student. This was a great experience, allowing me to learn English and help my son in school. With the guidance of Mrs. Messecar and Mrs. L., I decided to register in college and pursue my CDA. When Jorge began Kindergarten, I began my CDA program and did my practicum hours at Head Start. This experience and knowledge was of great benefit when I applied to be an Assistant Teacher at Head Start. I began as an Assistant Teacher with the program “Home Base,” an experience which helped me develop my skills both in and out of the classroom with the children their parents. After a year in this program I saw a job opening for a Family Advocate position. I received my FDA certification and after 14 years I continue to serve faithfully as a Family Advocate for Head Start. As a native Spanish speaker I have a unique role in my work place, easily identifying with Spanish speaking families, helping to translate documents, as well as serving as a translator in meetings, home visits, and PPT’s of Head Start and other schools. 

My son Jorge has been blessed with great experiences and achievements. In both elementary and middle school, he was a High Honors student. This lead to his enrollment in the Connecticut International Baccalaureate Academy where he graduated High School with his High School Diploma, a secondary International Baccalaureate Diploma, and received High Honors. When it was time to look at the prospect of college he had the grand opportunity to visit Trinity College, Connecticut College, Harvard University and Yale University, but at the end he decided to enroll at Gordon College where he was given a full, four year scholarship. He is currently a sophomore at Gordon.
I consider it imperative that all children and their families have the same opportunities that Jorge and my family have had as a direct result of our foundational experience with the Head Start Program. This program truly seeks to help families recognize their strengths, aid them in helping their children academically succeed, connect them to resources in their community and aid them in realizing their goals. 

To all of you in Congress I leave you with this: please continue supporting Head Start, a program which builds strong foundations for families like mine to progress. For progress, we need an educated society and the best way to do this is by continually investing in the future of our children.

Full Circle

by Robin Frost

I  was one of the first Head Start children. As I grew up in a foster care home, my foster brother and I were able to go to the Head Start classroom.  My brother is now working for AM Track Railroads and is a very active dad with his children.  I have been a family advocate for Manchester Head Start for the last 13 years. I applied to work here while my daughter Jaclynn was attending Head Start. She needed a little help with her speech, as she had a small hearing problem at a young age.  She received speech lessons and a great preschool learning environment.  She is now a junior in high  school where she excels in speech and literary writing class.  She is also tutoring her old Head Start teacher's daughter with her Junior high school studies.  That's my Head Start story. 

In A Child's Own Words

by Grace Whitney

In Connecticut, child welfare and Head Start workers come together on a regular basis to strengthen their working relationship.  Once contentious and cautious with one another, they now work as trusting partners with families through joint service planning and home visits, and on-going staffing of cases and sharing of resources.  Although parents have expressed how a more unified and collaborative team approach has positively affected their family, it is not typical for us to hear from young children how their experience of this more open communication has impacted them.  So the 'story' below is valuable because it illustrates, in a young child's own words, how important Head Start's emphasis on partnerships with families and community providers was to her:

During this quarter, DCF/Head Start was able to jointly work on a new report on a family that came in to the agency as a family assessment case.  Head Start advocated to the Careline on behalf of this family to have the report accepted as a FAR (family assessment versus investigation) case due to their working knowledge of the family and their cultural needs.  

As a follow-up…the child told her teacher (who was the person who made the Careline call) "a lady is coming to my house to talk to my mommy and daddy and my daddy is not going to hit me anymore."  She hugged the teacher and walked away to play.



Images shared by Early Head Start in Middlesex County

My Life Revolving Head Start

by Paula Luna

Good Evening my name is Paula Luna and I was born and raised in Danbury. I would like to say that I feel Education is one of the greatest benefits of a child’s life and should never be taken away from them. 

Providing children with the opportunity to be educated is a great asset to many in Danbury, especially the children and families we serve. Some children come to our programs and school system with parents who have little or no education. They may also depend on the meals provided to them while they attend our programs due to the fact that some families struggle day to day to make ends meet. I mention this because I happened to be one of those children. If it wasn’t for the loving, caring, understanding teachers, I wouldn’t have made it through life with the education I received.

Head Start provides a safe, healthy, nurturing, learning environment for many children in our community. The program allows children the ability to learn and grow, cognitively, physically and social emotionally, and through language skills. If it wasn’t for Head Start I wouldn’t be here today supporting a program that made a huge impact in my life. I say this for several reasons, First, I was a student of the Head Start program, and would like to add that to this day I am in contact with a person who totally made a positive impact in my life and she happens to be my former Head Start Teacher. It’s hard to believe the most memorable times of my education were through the time spent in the Head Start program and building a loving, caring relationship with my teacher.  She is now if I can say, My Mother.

Second, I happen to be a parent of Head Start. Both of my children were students of the Head Start Program. I was given the opportunity to volunteer in their classrooms which gave me the opportunity to work with children and assist the teachers. I was able to help with the goals set by the teachers in order to work with the children so that their needs and development in learning could be met. Both of my children graduated High school and one is currently attending college. I know Head Start provided the second foundation for myself as well as my children, and assisted us all with knowledge we needed to provide a chance to learn and grow in education.

Last but not least I am now an employee of the Head Start program. Through the years of positive influences which began in the Head Start program, I found the direction I needed to guide me with finding my career path as a teacher and obtaining an Associate’s Degree in Early Childhood Education. I am now able to assist the children of our future generations with their learning and development. 

Education is important and should never be taken away from our children. We are in this together, we should keep things together.

The Impact of Fatherhood

by Hayward Mclain

I am a 32 year old father who has custody of my five year old son Cordell who is currently enrolled in the Danbury Head Start program. I start my journey when I found out that Cordell's brother was not my son, I then left the marriage I was in and fought for custody of my son because I did not want him to grow up like I did a fatherless home and parent not involved in my education. So I was awarded custody of Cordell and at the time I was living in Bridgeport. I had Cordell in another child care facility because Head Start had a waiting list. When Cordell's name came up I jumped to the opportunity because of all the wonderful things I've heard about Head Start.

When enrolled I was asked to come to a parent meeting by the father hood cooordinator  and family advocate Warren Gill because I wasn't working and I said why not I had nothing else to do, they were doing elections for the site and I was voted president for that site. I then started to go to the policy coucil meetings because I needed to know more about how to be a parent, was I doing the right thing and who would be a better resource to find out information about parenting then a council full of parents so I felt I needed to join. So I went to a couple of meetings and eventually was voted to the vice chair (what better campaign then a single father) I was then exposed to wonderful resources like the NHSA conferences for parents, sitting on different boards which gave me a voice to impact what my son eats, what type of staff will be around and teaching my son which did something for my confidence as a parent and father. So the more confident I got the more involved I got and you can start to see the difference in the way my son reacted to me when I would pick him up. So I started to volunteer in the class and that really did something for me and Cordell's relationship, we grew a bond that was so close and it was something I really really enjoyed. So i started to get involved in community agency that Head Start has exposed me to like BCAC and the community messenger program which also gave me access to other parents and their knowledge of parenting. So now I feel like a mom in a sense that I was born to do this parenting thing. 

Community Messenger offered a facilitative leardership training and this is where I met my supervisor who was looking for a Fatherhood coordinator. I am now a family advocate and coordinator for the fatherhood initiative which is a career and not a job who would have thought. My son is preparing for kindergarten and is excited as dad is, that is exciting when the child is ready to move on educationally. This is due to the parent involvement the Head start offers, it allows the parent to have a voice an impact and a direction I could thank head start but there is not enough time in the world. Thanks for opportunity to share my story.    

Hayward is a strong parent thanks to Head Start!

Learning That I Matter

by Alice T.

This is not one story - it is the Early Head Start story in Middlesex County. It starts with an ARRA grant that began in 2010 that has brought home visiting services to over 80 infants and toddlers. The window of opportunity opened wide for our families as they allowed us into their homes and their hearts. Our families now know that they matter - to their babies - to their families-to their community. The evidence is clear in the following ways: 

* Cindy was pregnant - alone, and in a new city, she had escaped an abusive father and boyfriend. Two years later she is raising her daughter, maintaining her independence, assisting her partner in getting mental health support, has completed a nursing assistance training program and is employed. She interviews prospective staff, serves on Policy Council, and knows she matters. 

*Becky had a 3 month old, a large familiy struggling to maintain their housing, a husband out of work, and depression. Six months later she is in a nursing assistant training program, enjoying her time with her daughter now 9 months, accessing community housing services, and is a member of the Policy Council. At a recent meeting she shared how her home visitor has been helping her understand that she is her daughter's first teacher. She described how they look at every new movement, sound, and interaction as an opportunity to learn. When we talk about school readiness she can see the connections to what she does every day. 

There are many more stories to share - they all begin with someone learning they matter and taking responsibility for changing their lives...within a caring community fostered by the mission and purpose of the Head Start/Early Head Start Community.

Parents and staff work together to open a window of opportunity at Early Head Start in Middlesex:

 


Head Start

by Siobhan Gaston

I am forever grateful for the support that I received from the Manchester Head Start Program. My daughter Shayla began the program when she was 3 years old. She was able to attend the program for 2 years and completed it last year. During her time in Head Start, I was enrolled full time at the University of Connecticut with very limited finances. I do not know what I would have done without the Head Start Program. I was able to complete my Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing without the stress or cost of day care. Not only did The Head Start Program provide transportation, healthy meals, and an education to my child, they also provided a host of other services to our family. Everyone at the Manchester Preschool Center was so supportive, always asking how things were and if we needed anything. Mrs. D’Attilio and Nurse Quistorff were especially encouraging. I was able to complete school and begin my nursing career knowing that my child was well taken care of and learning in the process. Shayla’s transition to kindergarten has been a breeze and she is excelling both academically and socially thanks to Mrs. Jewett, Mrs. Michelle, Ms. Haussman, Mrs. G, and the Manchester Head Start Program. 

Parents Need to Be More Involved

by Ellie Ruggles

Was it that long ago when parents, relatives and neighbors came together to help raise the children of the community?  I grew up with a single parent. However, once I walked out of my front door I suddently had the eyes of everyone in my neighborhood.  That was 30 almost 40 years ago, a time when parents were comfortable reaching out.

Today, with the language barriers, cultural diversity, economic stress, and technological changes it seems parents aren't finding the time to sit and talk face to face with their children or neighbors, nor do they get involved with community events or parent groups at school.  And what happens to the children?  If they pay too little attention to what they are doing or not doing, they get into trouble.  The lack of support and direction are noticeable traits in the behavior of those children. We as parents need to re-evaluate what is more important in our child's life.

Statistics show children with involved parents do so much more in their lifetime.  They have the needed developmental skills necessary to succeed in anything they do, no matter what the economic status, cultural background, or family dynamic.

I am a mother of two.  I had no idea it would be so difficult to raise children in today's world.  So many things have changed.  I needed help.  Once they were accepted into Naugatuck Head Start, the Family Advocates and educators gave me the resources and encouragment I needed to become the involved parent I am today. We should all be involved with our child's life.  Parent involvement matters...your child's future depends on it.

A Team Effort

by Jo-Ann Williams-Stabler

Our Head Start program is located in South Norwalk, CT.  We serve a community of low-income, at-risk children and families.  More than 12% of our children are transported daily to the local community public schools to receive extra special needs services that our program cannot provide.  One of these shared placement children is an adorable three-year-old boy with severe food allergies.  His food allergies were of great concern to our faculty and kitchen staff.  

The public school admitted to our dietitian that they were not able to meet many of his food restrictions and that the three-year-old would have to be taught to monitor what he could and could not eat in the public school cafeteria. Our dietitian and head cook stepped up to the plate immediately.  Judy, the dietitian, went out to the local grocery store and purchased three insulated food storage containers. Aude, our head cook, religiously prepares an allergy free lunch daily for our little boy and puts it in his backpack each day before he leaves for his public school day.  The teachers at the public school make sure the insulated containers are returned to his backpack each day after lunch.  Mom washes the containers each evening and returns them to our Head Start program so that Aude can continue the process.  

The school nurse at the public school approached our dietitian at a community meeting last week to thank her.  Judy said, "We're just doing our job."

Testimonial

by Claudia McNeil

In order to accomplish all of the vision screenings, our RN had developed a partnership with Prevent Blindness. The Prevent Blindness staff screened the children and then passed the results to nursing who shared the results with the families. Nursing staff and family service workers worked together to contact parents and assist with follow up appointments. One such follow up involved a newly entered child  who failed the vision exam. His family started by insisting that there was nothing wrong with his vision. We had him tested again. Again, he failed. The family service worker and the nurse worked very hard to engage the parents and assisted the parents in making a follow up appointment with an eye doctor. The eye doctor discovered cataracts. The child was referred for almost immediate surgery. The parents and child were supported by the program through this process. The family shared the doctor’s revelation that if no follow up had been made during this critical time and this had been left untreated, this child would most certainly have lost his vision and treatment at that point would not have been able to restore it. 

Needless to say, all staff have taken this to heart and they have become relentless in their efforts to engage with families to ensure that follow up happens for children who fail what they used to think were trivial screens. Head Start policy saved this child’s vision and can certainly be credited with changing the trajectory of his young life.

Thanks for allowing us to share!





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