Window Into Our Home
by Stephanie Desauguste
I am going to let you into our lives and I am going to be very transparent in hopes that anyone who reads this understands the importance of what the Head Start program provides! We are a family of five. My name is Stephanie. My husband’s name is Jims. Our daughter’s name is Autumn and she is 12 years old. Our oldest son’s name is Jims Jr. and he is 5 years old. Our youngest son’s name is Aidan and he is 3 years old.
My husband and I come from a long line of generational poverty and abuse. My husband is from Haiti. When he was four years old his mother and father left him and his older brother in the care of family and went to America. They left their children in hopes to secure a life for them in a new more financially stable country. Jims’ older brother was able to come to America after five years of waiting. Jims was not able to leave because his father owed someone money. He was then left in the care of the family his father owed money to as an indentured servant (this sounds crazy but slavery is still very common in Haiti). From nine to thirteen years old my husband was a slave. He did all the house work and chores for that family. He went without proper nutrition, he went without love, he went without hope, and during that time he went completely without an education. During that time he was physically abused on almost a daily basis. When he was fourteen years old his mother was able to bring him to America. I would like to be able to say that his life got easier from then on but, the transition of no schooling to an American school was devastatingly hard for him.
From fourteen to seventeen years old he witnessed and personally endured an unfathomable amount of abuse at the hand of his father. His mother finally got the courage to leave her abusive husband when Jims was seventeen years old. (Please don’t judge this woman she is the most amazing woman I know). Jims has an older brother who is an amazing chef and currently has opened the only Haitian restaurant in Kansas City. Jims has a younger sister and brother who are studying to become doctors. My husband is currently the best chef in the whole world and more importantly the best Dad.
My story is a little more typical for the American poverty story. In America statistics show that divorce is the number one reason for poverty. My father was the classic alcoholic/abuser. My mother endured his abuse for eight years. My father left her when I was three years old. That is my first memory. After that she spiraled into the deepest form of depression one can possibly fall into. She then became the abuser. I and my two other sisters endured her physical and emotional abuse for six very long and very isolated years. We were taken from my mother and given to my father by a judge when I was ten. From ten to fifteen I was on my own. I preferred the neglect of my father over the physical abuse of my mother. I did not go to the dentist or doctor the entire time I lived with my father. I was coached on what to say to the authorities if asked how my home life was. I was an A student, on the basket ball team, soccer team, first chair in band, and the president of many clubs. No one knew that when my sisters and I went home at night we went home to a trailer filled with lice and fleas and no parents. I also fell into depression when I was fifteen. I wanted out of my life and away from the people in it.
My sisters and I were able to break away. My older sister is a nurse with four children. My twin sister has endured abuse at the hand of her ex-husband and is now a single mom of three, a maid, and one of the hardest workers I know (her youngest son has recently been cut from the Head Start program because she makes too much money. He now attends a daycare I would not send a dog to). I am currently a year away from a business degree, a mother of three, and am married to the most amazing man in the whole world.
I told those stories because the importance of why people are financially poor is over looked too much in our society. Just as wealth is handed down from generation to generation, so is poverty. Poverty is a curse. My husband and I are determined to break that curse along with other curses that our ancestors were too weak to face. Before I enrolled my boys into Head Start they were in a daycare that our family could afford. The saying you get what you pay for definitely applies to daycares. I hated sending my boys to this daycare. It was dirty, understaffed, the food was one food group (sugar), and the education was nonexistent. I honestly expected Head Start to be similar. Unfortunately any organization that caters to the poor usually has less than desirable conditions with it, but for our family Head Start has been a breath of fresh air.
Head Start jumped right alongside our family and our mission to give our children a better life. They fight for our kids. They feed our kids food I wish public schools would serve. They love, encourage, teach, support, train, and care for the entire family. Words alone cannot do justice for the HEART of Head Start. My husband and I recently went on a mission trip to Haiti. It was a great opportunity for me to see were my husband came from and for him to give back to the country he left. When the staff at our Head Start found out that we were going, the love and support they gave us was overwhelming. One staff member gave us clothes and toys by the bags full of stuff that she had purchased for the children at the orphanage we were going to. Head Start has become an extension of our family. I have spent a lot of time in my boy’s classrooms and have witnessed with my own eyes the positive effects this program has on our children. I have seen a boy that could not speak any English and had massive behavioral problems become transformed in less than a year. This little boy was very frustrated. He bit, kicked, hit, yelled, did not follow any direction, and would not eat at all. The Head Start program transformed early education for him. I can’t imagine what would have happened if he would have gone to kindergarten without the help of Head Start.
Head Start evens education between the wealthy and the poor. I wish that public schools operated like Head Start. The gap between parent and teacher is nonexistent at Head Start. The staff is there for two reasons- the family and education. They provide free education on so many important topics that affect the family unit. My husband and I have never been more involved and in love with an organization than we have been with Head Start. They truly get the need for change and they share the tools needed for that change.
Thank you from the bottom of my heart.
Before I discovered Head Start my daughter was not at her best. Now she has learned a lot. Like her lower case letters and their sounds. Patterning skills. This program not only helps the children of our community but the parents as well, such as information about what is going on and nhow we could help. Also how to better my child's education. I love this program. Any parent should try it.
by Jonna B.
Wow!! Its hard to believe that my children's journey through Head Start is nearly over. The teachers and staff who have touched our lives will forever be in my heart. The journey has not only been for my children and our family as whole, but its also been a very personal journey for me. (Which I'm continuing even after my daughter transitions into Kindergarten this year.)
When my oldest daughter Kasidy started Head Start, my family didn't sit at the dinner table together, we watched more TV in a day than I'd like to admit, and we rarely spent any real quality time together. Growing up in poverty myself, this is what I knew of home life. Even though I loved my children very much and thought I was a good parent I didn't go the extra mile. During our first year in the Head Start program my daughter was receiving home based services from The Family Conservancy. Miss Fran came to our home once a week and we spent so much time together, learning together. I learned exactly how much more I could be doing for my children and myself! Kasidy's second year was in the center based program through the YMCA. She started eating family style meals at school and before long came home saying she wanted to make her own plate and she wanted to set the table for all of us. Now we eat family style meals at the table, together, EVERY night. We only watch television maybe 2 hours every month, yes I said 2 hours every month, and that is usually just checking on the weather! Now my daughters get off of the school bus and instead of asking if they can watch whatever show was the flavor of the day, now they ask if they can go play with their friends. And we do so much together that I don't know how we ever managed before. Now it is just part of our routine, it's part of who we are as a family.... we do it all together.
The teachers in the Northland YMCA Heart room have been very special to us. My daughters often got to see Miss Susan at local high school football games. My youngest daughter, Maya in particular thought that was so special. Her teacher taking notice of her outside of school, it was more than just saying "Hi". My daughters got hugs from their teacher, she showed them and me that she genuinely cared for them. Head Start is about so much more than ABC's & 123's, as we all know. The LOVE that is grown in this program is amazing! The staff treating parents as partners rather than just parents of another kid in their program. Reaching out to individuals and connecting families with services or even other families. I had personal needs, which I wasn't even aware of before Head Start, that the program has helped me meet. I now have a greater sense of self worth, a love of self if you will. I am not afraid to try new things, in fact I seek out new opportunities more than ever before. This is something that has been brought on by our Head Start experience.
Since serving as Chair person on the parent committee at the center level (2010-2011 & 2011-2012), Chair person on the Policy Committee (2011-2012), Vice Chair person at Policy Council (2011-2012) I have also recently been elected to serve on the Missouri State Head Start Association Board as well as the Region VII Board. I want to be part of something GREAT, I like knowing that I really make a difference. I only wish I had more time to spend in the classroom with the kiddos! But as my Head Start journey has gone on I find I have more meetings, trainings, summits, and conferences to attend than I ever thought possible for myself. All of which give me the courage and knowledge to advocate for my children, my family, my community, myself, and even future generations. But still keeping me firmly grounded in my family! Now I come home from meetings and my daughters rush to greet me at the door, screaming Momma Momma! It is honestly great that they have the opportunity to miss me, even if its only for a couple of hours each week. I can see that they have a greater appreciation for me and it all makes my heart swell with pride. While the financial situation which made us eligible for the Head Start program was unfortunate, I can honestly say this program has been such a blessing to my family! I am so proud to say that my daughters are products of Head Start. And not just my daughters, but my entire family! We are so much better for it! I hope that even after my time on the parent committee is up that I will still hear from my friends at the center! I wish to be considered one of those precious resources that our family advocates have knowledge of. Just like when Miss Debbie called me asking about boots for a little cowgirl to wear for Halloween last year. You are all so very special to me & my family, I look forward to continuing to serve Head Start in any capacity I can!
Head Start really does change lives and helps people see all the possibilities, which they may have never seen as being available to them before. Thank You for all you do! You have helped my family in so many ways! I hope that the advocating that I do will help to grow the awareness, support and love of the Head Start program.
Saily, Head Start Mom
Head Start Mom
Head Start Works
by Susie Fitzpatrick
I'm so busy mentoring to my Head Start families I forgot I was there once. I have five sons and Head Start was a part of my life at the end of my five ( #4 son). Needed the free childcare services at that time in my life and it was very helpful. Volunteered in his classroom, assisted Kitchen Cook. At that time I had a great job as Food Service Supervisor and because of personal issues, left that job and moved from job to job. Ended up at Head Start as Kitchen Manager. Then nine months later applied for Family Resource Advocate and have remained in this position for the going on 14 years in Nov. 2012. The program has also assisted me to support my families and children. I feel I will continue as a great asset to the program as well as myself and my children and families and co-workers. I have been the DCS agency Staff Rep on the State Council for the past 10 years, Member of Region VII Board for two years. I will go above and beyond to do anything I can to support the Head Start Mission, Why because I truly believe HEAD START WORKS!!! I know because of who I am, I'm the positive morale builder in our center, in my personal life as well. I was not always aggressive & assertive but I am now and one thing no one can take from me is what is in my heart and what I have learned over years of plain old trial and error. I'm the parent group staff supporter as well as THE $ PER CHILD informer...We should continue on the path in supporting all children and families through the Head Start / Early Head Start Programs. Hats off to all that we all do on behalf of HEAD START.
Michelle, Head Start Mom
by Brienne Walker
Dear Heavenly Father please provide me the wisdom to find out what the problem is with my little boy. Please lead me to a place that wants to work with him finding his words, finding out why there is so much frustration, help me find someone who can give the answers to why we have hour long fits with no reason why. Please help me find someone who cares for my child the way I would,someplace where the people have the patience to figure out what is going on in his mind because he cannot always say with words what he is feeling.
This is a prayer I prayed every night as I lay awake wondering why of all people his own mother could not understand what he was saying, what he wanted, and even what he needed. My son was 3 years old and had the language of a two year old. My husband and I finally decided to have him tested at Clay County Health Center.
They tested him on several things and came back to us and told us he is normal. Normal, what does that mean when I see other children his age even younger who have words and play well with others and don't have the frustration my son did, no that label NORMAL did not fly with me.
One of my girlfriends had an aunt who had a friend that had interactions with my son just passing by or seeing at a family birthday party. She and I started discussing my son and all the issues he and I were having. She was one of the only people I could go to and cry because I had no idea what else I could do for him, she would listen and give me sound advice and make me feel so much better about being a great mother. She and I talked about her job at Head Start, now mind you I was one of those mothers that didn't want to put my child into preschool, I thought I was going to be able to do all his pre-k teaching all on my own. But by this point I knew he needed more and that is what I found so much more at Northland. The women I am referring to in this paragraph are Bev Sasek and Brenda Sottler, two people I am happy to call my friends today. They took me through the entire process, put my mind to ease about everything no matter what is thrown at them. They meet it head on and usually with such a positive attitude. They let their staff know when they are doing well, they have a report with all the children, and are always smiling when I walk in. Thank you ladies, I will never be able to repay you for all you did for Kaden and my family.
Onto the family advocates Tiffany and Christina you are a joy everytime I have called, anytime I have come into the office, and especially with Kaden who you greet and acknowledge everytime he is there. That is so hard to find in the world today an adult that will actually get down on a childs level and converse with him and her. These ladies do their job so well I could not imagine all the paperwork, phone calls, and files, not to mention all the conferences, meetings, and the names you have to remember about. Thank you Christina and Tiffany for your time and effort with Kaden and me.
Kaden's first teacher was Miss Niki and Miss Susan. On our first home visit Kaden went right up to them showing off and telling them all kinds of stories in his gibirish, and do you know what they did they didn't worry about talking to me they paid attention to Kaden and to anything he was doing or saying. Now first of all kaden never interacted with anyone and anyone who talked to kadem would always look at me and say, what did he say? I was immediately hooked I knew that he was going to be ok and so was I.
His second year teacher's were Miss Susan and Miss Maria. Miss Miria you were always a bright spot in Kaden's life he would ask if you were going to be waiting for him when he got to school, I know that he was shy at first but thats how I know you were one of his favorites. Thank you Miss Maria for all your hard work and patience you showed for Kaden.
Miss Susan I will never be able to tell you what you have meant to me and my family. Kaden has enjoyed every minuter of being at school with you. You are always the same never seem to run out of patience, never slow down, and are always ready when all the children want your undivided attention. You have been the constant these past two years, you have let me know every little thing, down to taking a picture of Kaden theh first time he wrote his full name. Those are the things a mother needs, she needs to feel that even though they are apart she will never miss a first. Thank you Miss Susan for encouragement, your compassion, and your energy. You will always be known as Kaden's first teacher.
Needless to say my son has extended vocabulary, has so much less frustration, and goes up to everyone and says who he is and most of the time introduces whomever is with him, just like a young gentlemen. He has grown so much from this experience and has achieved and surpassed every goal I ever had for preschool. My highest regard to this institution and the people you have hired to care for our children.
In closing I am so grateful to the Head Start program for all that they do for the children. These children are some of the brightest, gifted, and extraordinary people I will ever meet because they got the chance to learn early on that they are worth so much more than just being babysat, that they have a mind and that all things are possible.
Russel, Head Start Dad
by Ashlee Tran
When my son, Cau Bai, was first born, I knew that I wanted to make something of my life for him and myself, but I was directionless. My son attended Early Head Start while I was working a dead-end job. During a parent-teacher conference, his instructor told me the best news that I received in a long time-- I could attend college full-time and my son was still eligible for full-time status.
It was then that I decided that I was going to make my dreams a reality and not just a far-fetched dream. I decided that I was going to be a nurse. I enrolled literally the next day to begin classes in the fall semester.
Ever since then, our lives have changed drastically. I am a motivated mother, who believes that I can achieve anything that I can. Head Start gave me the courage to see my full potential in life. I had my second child, Mai, shortly after attending college. I never had to worry about my children. I know that they are appreciated and loved for their unique qualities that make them who they are.
Head Start gave my family an opportunity to have a Head Start. I can't imagine my life without them, and I will move on knowing that they helped create this successful family unit.