Judy, Head Start Alum

New Beginnings

By Patti J Henderson-Baines

Little did I realize that the simple act of seeking help for my then 4 year old son, would change the course of my life. But that's what occurred on that fateful day 32 years ago. Our Head Start story begins in a little town in Washington State called Burlington. We lived out of town, in a small rental home, that was surrounded by fields and farms. My son had a number of health related issues, that impacted his development. Since I had no prior experience in dealing with these issues, I was at a loss to know what exactly to do. A friend suggested I call the local Head Start program, she'd heard about it via a neighbor and so I did.

It wasnt long before a Home Visitor showed up at my door and so began our journey. From her I learned about the major domains of child development, how to set goals and how to begin to work on the important readiness skills my child needed to be successful. She taught me parenting skills, offered opportunities for leadership, and advocacy and generally gave me the confidence I needed to meet the challenges I faced daily. It was such an exciting year of discovery that when my younger daughter was age eligible I applied for her as well.

Though my family's head start experience, I served as a Policy Council Chairperson, Western Vice chairperson of the state Head start parent Association, served on the local Community action agency's board of directors, Spent 3 years serving as our counties representative on the Energy Assistance council for the State of Washington, and represented low income families at the training and technical assistance board at the University of Washington. But the skills I learned did not end with our involvement in the Head Start program, they continued on. I enrolled in College classes and began to move forward with a long held dream of completing a college degree. I would be the first in my family to do so. Neither of my parents were high school graduates.  

Of my 4 children two attended Head Start. But the impact to the other's was just as great, because Head Start changed me. All of my 4 children are grown now, my son is a Welder, and Fisherman, his sister an Architect, who travels the world designing and creating beautiful buildings. Their siblings have gone on to work in Educational Technology and the Medical profession, My children are happy and resourceful adults who have completed their educational goals, and are living lives that my parent's could not even have dreamed about.

Today when I read about this Head Start study or that Head Start report, that determines that the effects of a "Head Start education ends in about the 3rd grade, I know that they have failed to measure the right things. They have not measured the skills that a parent gains in beginning to shape the lives of their children from one of poverty to a life of meaning and success. Yes my children were ready for school, but far more importantly I was ready to raise them to be responsible, educated and caring citizens for a future world.

Patti J Henderson-Baines

Head Start Saved My Family

by Joeann Crafton

My children and I left a domestic violence situation ONLY because we received resources, time and encouragement from the staff at Educational Opportunities for Children and Families. We were able to start a new life also because of the time staff invested into us. I was going to give my children some pills and take the rest of the bottle myself. Because I couldn't leave them there with their dad, nor could I unleash 3 boys JUST like their dad on the world of women. However the staff at that time were Dilligent to get me and my boys into counseling, support groups and also parenting groups so we could break the chains of the past and start over. It was Hard, but I had encouragement, support and most of all the Opportunity to better my family! I now have a husband who is gentle and kind. We had to relearn that we were worth such a person in our lives! My children have become Wonderful husbands and fathers and we owe it all to the many staff that work at E.O.C.F. I learned job skills from volunteering at E.O.C.F and eventually applied for a position. I am a staff member at E.O.C.F, and have been for 13 years. I wanted to be a light to families like the staff was to me. Though I no longer work in the classrooms, I purchase the supplies and make sure they are safe for the children and families we serve and our staff members!

Head Start: Kindergarten and LIfe Success

by Desirae Zabel 

Head Start has been an amazing tool for my family, son and me to grow as individuals and as a family unit. My son, Drake, has learned how to interact and socialize with other children, follow directions, get ready for kindergarten, be self reliant, and make friends.

My family has benefited from Head Start by meeting new families, found friends to have play dates with and learning how to educate and advocate for our children and our state. Head Start helped provided us with the opportunity to take classes through parent meetings that have helped us with becoming the parents we want to be. We also have strengthened our time as a family by learning new family crafts, which has helped us grow stronger as a family.

With Head Start we were able to find out our son has Occupational and Physical sensitivities and have helped him by providing him with OT and PT therapy.

I have benefited as a mother of a child of in Head Start. It has truly changed my life. Head Start provided me with leadership opportunities such as being a Vice President in parent group, Policy Council rep, a WA State Parent Ambassador and Mentor and Policy Council Chair for 2012.

Before Head Start I was scared to be a parent and was not sure how to be one. I doubted my parenting skills. I can now advocate for my child, my family and my community. I can write letters to the editor, I can do speeches, I can mentor others to advocate for their children and communities, I can fly anywhere and be ok. I can understand issues and know how to fight for them.

I now know I’m an excellent parent and mom and without this program I don’t think I would have been able to do any of these things. I’m my child’s most important teacher and parent and now with Head Start I have the tools to be the best I can be and my family will forever be stronger.

Foundations for the Future

by Kim Davis 

Our journey began when my second child was enrolled in Head Start in Kittitas County. We suspected he needed some additional support and after assessment by our local school district we were referred to Head Start. Through the program it was determined our child needed support with speech and that it was affecting his emotional development. As a parent with child with developmental delays you often blame yourself for what you did or didn't do that affected your child's diagnosis. Head Start reassured us that is was not atypical and offered additional supports for both our child and our family.
We were so excited about the parent involvement and parent education opportunities and took advantage of every parent education class, parent group involvement, and all the additional support services offered by this program for both our child and our family.

For many years I had wanted to continue to my formal education, but the increased demands of my own children and my aging parent made it next to impossible to even entertain that thought. Through the family advocacy and family support we received I was able to realize my own potential and applied to and was accepted in our local university. It wasn't easy but with the support of my family advocate and family partnership manager I felt confident and received support in my petition to enter school.

Six years later I graduated with a degree in Psychology. I vowed at that time I would give back to families and children and entered the realm of college graduates seeking employment. Low and behold there was an opening in our local Head Start program for a classroom assistant/family support personnel and I applied.

Thirteen years later, and an employee of our local Head Start program I was not only able to advance in my career and gain additional educational opportunities, but I learned how to advocate for our children and families because I personally realized the value of Head Start.

My two sons who went through the program both completed school---one is an employee of our state parks program and has been for over 5 years. The other is attending a two-year college for IT and he is proud of the his performance for the past three quarters where he has the honor of being on the Dean's list while working a part time job. Both commute more than 30 miles one way to work and to attend school.

As for me, on October 1, after 13 years of employment in our agency, I will assume the position (by competitive interview and selection process) of Executive Director. I earned this but would not have considered this as part of my future had it not been the support that I and my family received from our local Head Start program and the incredible staff!

EPIC Head Start parents & staff

Once Homeless, Now Helping Others

At Skagit/Islands Early Head Start, Sylvia Guzman, 33, teaches special needs and mainstream children, using Spanish, English and sign language. She also makes home visits to teach parenting skills – simple things, she said, such as how to obtain a driver’s license or use food banks. 

The people she visits don’t have much. But compared to where Sylvia used to be, they have a lot. 

Sylvia started field work in central California at 13. She picked on weekends during the school year and all summer to help her parents, immigrants from Oaxaca, Mexico. “When my parents told me it was time to get another bin, I’d start crying,” she said.

At 18, Sylvia married Cornelio, a fellow Oaxacan she met in the fields. They became migrant workers, following the harvest up through Oregon and Washington. The family lived in labor camps, in their cargo van, and in a livestock barn where they boiled water to shower in a plywood-covered feeding pen. One boss let them sleep in a corner of his rat-infested warehouse. 

“I was pregnant, and I would cry because I did not want to stay there,” Sylvia said. “I’m terrified of rats. In Mexico one night I felt something scratching on the blankets and I told my husband, ‘Honey I think there’s a rat on top of us.’ He told me, ‘No, it’s not. Go to sleep.’ Then he felt it and he flung off the blankets. And the rats in Mexico …” She holds her hands a foot apart.

In 2001, Sylvia, Cornelio and their two young children were sharing a two-bedroom house with about 20 people in Burlington, Washington. Fed up with fieldwork, she walked across the street to a child-care center. 

“I told the woman that I’d come every day for a week and work for free.” She got the job, her first in child care.

She enrolled at Skagit Valley College, and graduated two years later with an associate’s degree. In October, she was selected to go to the national Head Start conference in Washington, D.C., where she gave two presentations, one about bilingual education, and one about her life. In 2010, she graduated from WSU Online with a bachelor’s degree in human development and a certificate in Early Childhood Development and Care. She was highlighted at the WSU commencement, and featured on a front page article in the Moscow-Pullman Daily News. 

When asked about her past, Sylvia switched to Spanish:  “Se aprende de los golpes de la vida,” she said, “You learn from the hardships of life.”

Sylvia teaches students using English, Spanish and sign language!

From Head Start Parent to Head Start Staff

by Kylee Allen

Head Start does not only help prepare children for kindergarten, enhance their social skills, build their confidence and teach them the art of learning but it also prepares parents to raise strong and healthy families.  

When my children Delaney, Zakary and Dylan were enrolled in Early Head Start and Preschool Head Start in 2005 I was a struggling young single mom who had not envisioned my life in this direction but was doing my best to make it work best for me and my children. I had little patience as a mom and did not always know how to relate and communicate so my children would listen. 

My Early Head Start home visitor gave me useful information on how to best communicate with my kids in more effective ways so that they would listen.  At the same time she was teaching me how to teach my kids with the basic tools we had at home. She helped me understand that pots and pans can drums, spatulas can be swords, socks can be balls, and empty toilet paper rolls can be binoculars. Everything I could ever imagine learning I learned about how to interact with my kids successfully. 

While my kids were receiving their high quality preschool education, I too was receiving education on how to be active in parent committees, Policy Council and advocating for children in Head Start across the state.  We were learning and growing as a family. Each day brought us new surprises and we were able to get through them together always knowing that the Head Start staff would be able to guide us in a direction if we need services from within the community. 

As my children grew older and started to move into the K-12 school system, I really started to feel that Head Start was more than a preschool for my kids but it was a part of my life that I wanted to be able to share with other families. I become very actively involved in parent leadership through WSA Parent Ambassador Program. This opportunity provided me to advocate for children and families across the state and nation and also provide the same mentoring piece of Head Start that was once given to me. 

My kids have all moved in to Kindergarten and above. My youngest son Dylan who is in first grade reads at a 4th grade level. Delaney who is in 4th grade is the number one speller in her class and has passed all the states tests with flying colors. Zakary who is in 3rd grade mentors Kindergartners about reading and provide math help to 1st graders. He is shy but very intelligent and says he learned to love books in Head Start. 

As a family my kids and I have become a strong unit. Head Start provided us with some skills we didn’t have when we entered the program and we use them every day since. We eat family style dinners, have adventure bites of new foods, take nature walks and read as a family together every night. Head Start helped us strengthen our foundation when I was a young struggling mom and helped my kids be prepared for Kindergarten and beyond. 

Head Start impacted me in such a way that I knew I wanted to work for the same program that my children and I were lucky to be a part of. I went back to school to get my Early Childhood Education degree so I could become a Home Visitor.

I know work for Skagit/Islands Head Start as an Early Head Start Home Visiter (ITS) the same program that helped my family become so successful. I get to help plant those seeds in the families in my community and it’s very rewarding. 

You see Head Start doesn’t just prepare kids for Kindergarten it encourages families to set goals, dream big and reach for the things you have always wanted. 

Kylee's children are on a path to success in school and in life!

Delaney, Head Start Graduate

Head Start Enriches Lives

I decided to keep my name anonymous because my story is rather personal and I wanted to share my experience honestly without making myself vulnerable. So here goes...

I grew up poor. My mother, sister, and I lived in low-income housing and relied on food banks, food stamps and welfare to survive. I suffered extreme child abuse at the hands of babysitters and extended family. By the age of 7, I was in regular therapy and taking anti-depressant medications. My life has been a difficult journey and the struggle continues to this day. In addition to depression, I also deal with post traumatic stress disorder and have several health conditions that affect my day to day life. The real joy in my life comes from my wonderful children. They are the reason I am able to drag myself out of bed and face the world.

Here's where Head Start comes in...

My children are both incredibly bright. My daughter is also extremely shy. When she was born we lived in an apartment complex where she was able to play with other children on a regular basis. However, when she was 2, we moved to a rural community. I am also very shy and tend to isolate, so I didn't have any friends with kids etc. I decided to sign my daughter up for several classes like ballet and music, but the children didn't really interact with one another. I was concerned  her shyness and lack of social interaction with her peers was going to cause problems for her once she went off to kindergarten. While attending storytime at the local library, I picked up a flyer for Head Start. I figured it would be a great way for her to interact with other children and make some friends. 

What I didn't know was how much Head Start would impact my life. My daughter attends class 4 days a week. That means I have to force myself to leave the house and drive her to and from school (not an easy task when depressed). To top it off, Head Start is big on parental involvement. There are parent meetings and events to attend in addition to meetings with teachers and parent services specialists. The staff encouraged me to volunteer in my daughter's classroom, so I started doing that on a regular basis. I really enjoy getting to know all of the children and watching them learn and grow. The transformation is truly amazing! I became a true believer in Head Start and the power it has to change lives. From there, I got involved with the Leadership Council, was elected as the Chairperson, and became a parent ambassador. I have done things I never imagined myself doing and it feels awesome!

This may not seem like much to most people, but it has dramatically changed my life. It has given me an opportunity to help my children, myself, and many other children as well. In doing that, it has brought me out of the dark and into a brighter future for myself and kids. I wish I could say I am no longer depressed, but that just wouldn't be true. I can say that I feel better about my life and what I have accomplished.

Our lives have been enriched and I believe that holds true for everyone who has the benefit of participating in Head Start.


by Brian Lennox

My name is Brian Lennox.  I have had the opportunity to put 5 children through the Head Start Program.  I have been in a place to see the difference between my children, and their friends who did not get in the program.  Because of the Early Learning my children received they excelled in school while a lot of others around them did not.  I strongly feel this is because of Head Start.


by Sonja Lennox

Head Start is such a wonderful program.  It not only teaches children numbers and colors but helps with social and emotional growth.  The important thing about Head Start is its focus on the whole child, which includes the entire family.  Family support staff are always there to help parents with whatever they need.  It could be finding resources for help with bills to taking classes to finish high school or even signing up for college classes.

Even though Head Start offers family support services, we were fortunate enough to have never needed that extra benefit but I must say,  Head Start brought my family closer together.  It showed us the importance of family, and the male role model in a child’s life. My husband is now “a big dog” in a program called Watch D.O.G.S (dads of good students).  It is a program that tries to get more male involvement in our schools.  I have become very active in my Policy Council, and a Parent Ambassador advocating for children and the importance of Early Learning.  I am also on the Early Learning Action Alliance committee.  Without the opportunities available to us from Head Start I don’t feel my family would be as successful in life as they are.

I have had two children go through the Head Start program.  Both under very different circumstances.  My daughter Randi is now 15.  She volunteers at our local food bank, takes advanced placement classes, and has recently been a Page for the House of Representatives.  I feel without Head Start and the Early Learning she received she would have started out behind her class.  She made the school cut off by five days, so she is the youngest in her class, but she has consistently been in the top 1/3 of her class.  My son, Danner, who is 5, was diagnosed with speech problems.  Head Start helped us set an IEP and get him the extra help he needed to be successful in life.  Head Start staff also took the time to work Danner through extreme separation anxiety.  I feel that without Head Start my children would have started out behind in their kindergarten classes and possible never caught up to their peers.  

Amanda, Head Start Mom

Window Of Opportunity

by Dezarie Taylor

Head Start has been there for me in many ways. Due to an injury I was not able to work for a while. I have an AA Degree in Bus. Management, a high degree of work ethics, and a high level of job skills due to fifteen years of working.

Since I wasn't able to work, I had a big gap on my resume. Two years ago my Head Start program suggested that I run for the Policy Council. I was elected as the Policy Council's alt Parent Rep.I didn't know that with that you get to learn the ins and outs of the Head Start program, but I even learned, and taught new job skills. I was able to put these skills on my resume and made up for the gap that was on it.

Most importantly my children look up to me. The social skills that I learned allowed me to interact with my children by using techniques taught by Head Start. The Head Start program has brought us closer together.

Thank You Head Start

We Touch Lives

by Shannon Cunningham

As a teacher, it made the hard work worthwhile when I would see the look of joy on a child's face when they first start to put letters together to make words for a picture they have drawn.  Or the excitement when they bring you a letter they wrote at home for you.  As a social worker (Parent Services Specialist) it's when a parent has the confidence to use English at a parent event.  My job means hearing a proud mom share that her daughter who was a shy little girl in my class 10 years before is getting national awards in high school.  It means I run into families working out together at the YMCA because I helped them sign up while they were in my class.  We touch lives now, and in the future.


by Tim C.

My daughter attends Monroe Head Start. This will be her second year.  Over the last year and a half, I have seen a great improvement in her social skills.  Her class is very diverse and she is learning about other cultures as well as her own.  She is smart and building on the skills and knowledge she has gained at home.  Head Start has been the key to her social growth because she has very little opportunity to interact with her peers otherwise.  The staff I have worked with has been incredible.  They are dedicated to seeing my daughter succeed in school and in life.  They encourage me to participate in her education and teach me valuable parenting skills. I used to be afraid of how my daughter would handle school on an emotional level, but because of the growth she has made in Head Start, I am sure she will be ready to start kindergarten in the Fall.  I am so happy she has had the chance to attend such a safe and high quality preschool.

Thank You Head Start

by Juan Gutierrez

Head Start has been great for us. All of our 4 kids attended classes at Head Start of Monroe, WA.  We want to thank all of the people of Head Start in Monroe.


by Clara Gutierrez

Head start es un programa muy bueno porgue nosotros tuvimos a nuestros Cuatro hijos asistiendo en el programa que sentimos que nuestros hijos se desembolieron ante la sociedad, muy bein,y su capacidad para ir ala Escuela primaria no tuvieron ni tuvimos problemas para su aprendisaje, Porque estavan muy desenbueltos en los conocimie tos. Para comenzar su Kinder en la primaria. Nostros le damos Gracias a todas las personas que nos ayudaron con nuestros hijos y en especial al programa de Head start.

Advancement with Joy

by Carine Crooks

My daughter Ayla has advanced in her writing, recognition, and singing of her letters and numbers.  She spells amazingly since she started and could not write one letter.  She now spells her and her sisters names, and almost all 26 letters free hand!  She is social well balanced with her peers as well as her teachers/authority figures.  She has brought home great craft/hands on projects that she is so proud that she has completed.  She has really advanced with joy in her heart in class.    

Chanel, Head Start Mom

Head Start Works

by Marlin Bralens

Head Start has helped strengthen my family by helping my son Marlin to start do so things on his own. His speech has improved enormously and is now understandable when he talks and is learning to have better pronunciation of his words better. He also has begun to recognize letters and his name when it is written. He has also learned to not cry and throw tantrums when he is told “NO”. 

Whenever I have a concern or need it is always met with Head Start. They help with different angles and perspective on how to solve a problem in a positive way. My Home Visitor, Bonnie, includes my older son in the home visits and activities and this makes him feel like he is important and enjoys it very much!

I believe that Head Start is a vital program and needs to funded. Head Start teachers are teaching “our” kids who will be our future leaders. I know “I” want to be secure and comfortable knowing my children as well as others are learning early on that you have to work and learn skills to make it in this world. 


by Leslie Horn

My oldest daughter Alexis entered Head Start at 3 years old. She was terrified of me leaving her at school and had these outrageous melt downs. So I decided to volunteer in the classroom everyday. Slowly Alexis began to blossom and became less dependent on me. She became comfortable with her teachers and enjoyed going to school. She is now a 2nd grader at Chain Lake Elementary. Being involved in the school also brought some opportunities for myself. I was on leadership council and executive council for 3 years. During that time I had a 2nd daughter Morganne. She is about to graduate from Head Start in June. She is exceptionally bright and is well above her class. She will be starting a dual language program in kindergarten this September. I thank Head Start for giving my children a safe, caring atmosphere to learn in. They were and are completely ready for kindergarten. I will miss my involvement with them. Our program in Snohomish County is amazing! Thanks!

Words Cannot Describe

by Kristina Madden

Our experiences with head start have been a wonderful blessing for our family. I am a single mom, working and going to school. It makes me feel so good to know my child is not just at daycare, but is in such a high quality program. He has grown and learned so much, in everything from his independence to his social skills and writing and more. The program has also helped me as a parent and our family with amazing resources, wonderful family nights, and just all around good services. The staff are all clearly passionate about the children and families and are an amazing resource as well. I also love how us parents can have input. I love this program so much and wish every child had an opportunity like this.

Goal Making and Transitioning

by Jacquelyn Wolcott

My Story. . .

When my daughter and I started in the Head Start program I didn’t know what to expect. I figured it was basically a childcare for my daughter. I had no idea how involved I would become. When we entered the program I was working in a pub as a cook. I worked all kinds of crazy hours, I was receiving the Working Connections Child Care subsidy from the state, my daughter was being cared for by my sister when I was working, and when I was home with my daughter I spent most of my time sleeping. Obviously I didn’t have a whole lot of actual interaction time with my daughter. 

When we had our first home visit with our Family Health Advocate I had no idea that we’d be setting goals for me as well as my daughter. I didn’t even know I HAD goals for myself, it just wasn’t something I thought about. After talking about my work life and the fact that I have horrible dental health problems that needed to be addressed we set some goals. My first goal was to find a job that would not only allow me to have more time at home with my daughter but would, after time, provide health and dental coverage.  After my first goal was achieved, the next goal was to start getting my dental issues taken care of. I also wanted to be involved in with my daughter’s education.

At my first parent committee meeting I heard about Policy Council and decided to ‘give it a shot’. I started attending the meetings and learning more about the program as a whole and absorbed every bit of information I could. I became a WSA representative, sat on several committees, participated in the strategic planning process in our program, and, on top of all that, I found myself a job working as a cook in  my local hospital. I started part time, working weekends when my daughter was away at her grandma’s house so I had accomplished one of my goals: more time with my daughter. Six months after starting this new job I was given the option of medical and dental benefits.

I am now in my second year of Policy Council, I’m the Chairperson, I’ve attended not only state association meetings but also the Office of Head Start’s 1st National Birth to Five Leadership Institute and now I have a Region X Conference under my belt.  I am currently in the process of getting my teeth fixed and am constantly volunteering in my daughter’s classroom.  Looking forward to the year ahead and the fact that my daughter will be transitioning out of the Head Start Program and into Kindergarten, I’ve begun to look for ways that I would be able to transition right along with her. 

I have already made contact with the PTO of the local school that my daughter will be transitioning into so that I can start to attend their monthly meetings. I won’t be able to participate in these meetings at this point but I will be able to gain an understanding of what my role will be in the public school system once the transition is initiated. I will hopefully be able to do my third and final year of Policy Council as a Community Representative and be able to help parents next year make the same kind of transition that I am in the process of making this year. This has been an amazing journey and I can’t wait to see where it will take me next.

Terry Family Success Story

by April Terry

My oldest daughter went through the Head Start program 6 years ago. Being my first child, I wasn’t really sure how the program worked, other than my daughter got on the bus 4 days a week, went to school for a few hours and came home. 

We would attend the family nights, the parent meetings, and some parenting classes, but other than that, I wasn’t aware of the other many ways I could be involved. We moved away halfway through the year, out of state, and was unable to find preschool for my daughter. Our financial situation had changed drastically, and we were over qualified for other Head Start programs, but we still didn’t have the money to afford to pay for private pay preschool.  So she stayed home where I worked with her. Luckily, my oldest daughter doesn’t have a problem with learning, is very naturally smart, and things come easy to her. So when she started kindergarten, she was pretty much ready.  

There is a very different story for my 2nd daughter Lauryn.

When Lauryn reached about a year old, she still wasn’t talking much. She was not saying many words, but she talked a great deal. NO ONE could understand her but me. Half the time her own dad couldn’t understand her. We spent many hours trying to decipher and translate what she was saying to family members.  She mumbled a lot, and her words were jarbled. My oldest daughter was speaking in full sentences by the time she was 1, so this was a big difference for me. I know people always tell you not to compare your children, but this was very hard to do. It was such a drastic difference, that I started to wonder if something was wrong. 

I took Lauryn to the doctor, and during her well child exams, I always brought up to her provider that I was concerned about her speech. Many times, my oldest daughter was with me, and when the provider would ask Lauryn a question, Ashley (the oldest) would always answer for her. The provider kept chalking it up to the oldest talking for her, and assured me it was just a normal part of sibling interaction. Because Ashley spoke for her, the provider just assured me this is why Lauryn wasn’t talking. 

Two years went by, and this was ALWAYS a concern for me. I always brought it up, and was always given the same answer. It was because her sister spoke for her. Around this time, I enrolled Lauryn in the ECEAP program at our local school. Which is our state's version of Head Start. She had turned 3 and was eligible. She went through the preschool screening, and during part of that, was interviewed by the Speech Therapist. The Therapist noticed a delay in her, and noticed that she had a hard time pronouncing certain syllables. This was put in her file, and Lauryn started school in the fall of 2007.  

This video was taken of Lauryn around the time she started preschool for the first time at age 3. She is singing a song, and out of all the words, I can only identify a few. 


Her teachers paid attention to the mumbling and the inattention she had. Because I had other people observing her besides family, they were noticing a delay in speech as well. Her sister wasn’t around during preschool time, so it was much easier to see there was a problem. Lauryn talked A LOT but nobody could understand her. I could, but it was because I was at home with her, and learned her language. The teachers brought to my attention their concerns, and I told them I had thought something wasn’t right for a long time. The ECEAP program provided a meeting with a Speech Therapist and we proceeded with an evaluation and an IEP. Lauryn was referred to a hearing specialist as a precautionary step.  My doctor, had NEVER ordered a referral or an evaluation. I was laughed at when I brought my concerns to them. Through the referral from the ECEAP speech therapist, we discovered at a hearing test, that Lauryn was 75% deaf in one ear, and 25% in the other!! My daughter was almost 4 years old by the time this was discovered! 

The specialist explained, that the reason Lauryn wasn’t speaking correctly, was because she had a massive amount of fluid on her ears, and suffered from Estachian Tube Dysfunction; a genetic problem that causes the tubes to not grow properly, and drain fluid from the ears. She was not speaking correctly, because to her, everyone sounded like they were underwater. She was just relaying it back the way she heard it. Mumbled. The doctors assured me it was an easy fix.  Lauryn underwent surgery, and had tubes placed in her ears.  She returned back to school, I informed the ECEAP staff what we had discovered and they re-evaluated Lauryn’s IEP to include Speech Therapy, for at least 20 mins a week, if not more.  She continued with her Speech Therapy, and we saw great strides in her speech, and her education.

During the summer of 2009, I walked in to our local Head Start to apply for a position. This was the same Head Start my oldest daughter attended, so I was familiar with the staff. Many of the same teachers and faces, I had dealt with 3 years prior. I inquired about the waiting list, because of missing the registration deadlines I knew there had to be one. I was told that I could put Lauryn on the waiting list, but through a conversation, I learned that were completely full except for one spot they were holding for a student with a disability, or IEP. When I let the staff know that my child already had an IEP in place, she was placed in the last spot for that classroom. This was about 2 weeks before classes were to start. It was a complete godsend, and a perfect example of being in the right place at the right time that she was blessed with this slot in the Elma Head Start program. I was so excited for her to attend! Lauryn continued with her Speech Therapy for the duration of that school year, and the combination of that therapy, and getting her hearing finally under control, today, you could probably not even tell that she once had a Speech Delay. She can write her name, knows all of her ABC’s and 123’s, and is now a 2nd grader who reads and writes at the top of her class. 

 Lauryn’s IEP was re-evaluated and with assistance from our home school Speech Therapist when she started Kindergarten, and it was determined that an IEP was no longer a necessity for her, and that she was right on target for her benchmarks. If it were not for the help I received in diagnosing my daughter with a disability, I fear she would have started school unable to hear, afraid of learning, with people not being able to understand her. It would have probably taken another 3 years longer than it did, and that was already 3 years too long.

Instead of starting Kindergarten with a disability or a delay, we were able to fix the problem, before she became another statistic. We were able to save her school district the financial capacity it would have taken from their Special Ed department, after she started school that fall.

Lauryn is now a completely well adjusted, smart, TALKATIVE, little girl, who  started kindergarten in the fall of 2010 with no barriers to her education.  She can hear and now she can speak. Lauryn got the HEAD START she needed so badly. I can't imagine if she wouldn't have had this opportunity, where she would be at in her education right now. 

This was Lauryn singing a song at age 5, about 6 months through her speech therapy. 


I have learned that with the right tools in hand, I could be the voice for my daughter, I had known all along that something wasn’t right with her.  The staff at all of the centers Lauryn attended, listened to me, and helped me figure out how to take action. With the tools I received from being a parent in the Head Start program, I learned to not doubt myself and my instincts. 

The education and information I have received as a parent in this program, have increased my knowledge tenfold, of simple everyday life things.  I have learned how to be a better mother, a more knowledgeable adult, and most importantly an involved parent in my children’s lives.

This is just one of my success stories from the Washington State Head Start and ECEAP programs..

Jacquelyn, Head Start Mom

Caleb Glen Ross—a True Head Start Success Story

by Jennifer Ross
In July 2008, my son Caleb Glen Ross was diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy. Within just a few moments our life went from having a son who was a little delayed, to having a son with a lifelong disability. He would turn 2 that September. We left the hospital that day with no information or plan and spent the next 9 months “researching” but feeling LOST, not knowing what life would look like for Caleb. Where and how would he go to school, who would be his friends, what were we going to do? Another agency connected us with the Logan Elementary Head Start, CAPE program.
It was very apparent from the time we walked through the door that this was what I had been searching for. We spent an hour or so in the classroom that day learning what they could do for Caleb, with no mention of what Caleb couldn’t do. Caleb just turned 5 and I am proud to say that when he does begin kindergarten next fall he will be far ahead of his peers who have not had the gift of being in a Head Start program. He is able to phonetically spell 4-5 letter words, knows his numbers and basic addition, and is at the reading level expected beginning first grade. I know this is due to his Head Start education.
A child with a C.P. diagnosis often needs occupational therapy for both small and large motor delays. Thanks to the teaching design of Caleb’s class his small motor tasks such as writing, using scissors, and puzzles have all been addressed and he is on target with his peers. Every Thursday Caleb receives P.T. at school. This is in addition to all of his clinical therapy. This is different though, because all of his classmates participate with him. The therapist also shares information and equipment with his teachers so that his experience at school can be as normal as possible.
Personally, I serve as our Head Start Policy Council President. This has given me a chance to develop self confidence and purpose. By far though the greatest gift we have received from the Head Start program is a blessing shared by us and all of the children in his class.  He is being treated as totally equal shows Caleb and his classmate’s acceptance and inclusion. His classmates love the chance to help push him, (if he’s in the mood), don’t think twice about him crawling around the room, and don’t even question why he can’t stand to wash his hands. Even after his time here is finished, I will continue to be involved, though I will never be able to give back all that we have received.

Mother and Staff Member

by Alejandra S.

My children attended the Denise Louie Education Center Head Start program. Now my oldest is in college and my second is attending WASU (Washington State University). I believe that Head Start is a good foundation for children in our community because it creates productive people in society. Furthermore I am a staff member of the Head Start program and the Head Start program that I work for is also paying for my classes which is allowing me to succeed professionally and personally. But most important I am teaching my children the way to succeed by demonstrating that I can work and attend school.  

My Journey

by Amy Lawrence

I had an opportunity to observe a Head Start classroom for the first time when I was taking an early chilhood education class at my local college.  I was required to go to my local preschools to do observations for the class.  It was a great chance to get to see all of the programs in my area.  When I went into the Head Start class in Elma it was like nothing else I had seen, I was astounded at all of the life skills that the children were learning.  

A few years after that my son was three years old and I was looking into preschools for him.  My husband was out of work at the time and I was home with the kids so we qualified for Head Start.  I was very happy that my son was going to be able to be in a Head Start classroom.  I was voted the policy council representative for his classroom and I volunteered in the classroom on a regular basis.  During the summer after my son's first year of Head Start a position became available in his classroom.  I applied and was offerd the position of Classroom Bus Aide.  I worked in that position for 6 months when a Teacher's Assistant position became available.  I applied for it and I was offered the position.  I have happily worked in this position for three months now and I love it.  It is such a joy and honor to work with the children in our community that need it the most.

It has been such a wonderful experience for my family and I to be a part of Head Start.  I went from being a stay at home mom to being a Teacher's Assistant in the Head Start program.  I love my job and I feel that through my journey I have learned about so many aspects of this program.  I plan to get my AA degree and someday become a teacher.  

Magdalena Hernandez, Migrant Head Start Alum

Rebecca, Head Start Parent

Thank heaven for Head Start

Adam was born with failure to thrive and two holes in his heart. At the young age of 3 1/2 he underwent open heart surgery. When other children were running and playing Adam was still learning to walk. He was behind in his scholastic abilities and motor skills. At age four he was granted enrollment in Head Start. He was able to attend for three years from 1983 to 1986. In this time they were able to work with Adam to improve his speech, help teach him to walk, learn survival skills and to enhance his ability to interact with others. The task to help Adam to catch up was huge and without the help of the Head Start Program his mother and I would have had been on our own. We are blessed that Adam was able to finish school through the twelve grades and obtain his high school diploma. Our deepest gratitude to the Head Start Program and may there always be funding available for this valuable service.


by Natasha Fecteau

Children don't come with an instructional manual. The first few years of a child's life is spent figuring out what makes them tick. Even a third and fourth child comes with a new set of challenges. I think that every parent dreams of being Parent of the Year, but when the reality and the difficulties make us feel like failures, we lose hope. My son and I have been a part of the KCR HeadStart Early HeadStart/ECEAP program since he was 3 weeks old. In the last five years when I've felt the least equipped to be a parent there was always someone ready with an open heart willing to listen and encourage. When I needed help they knew where I could go and how to access the correct agency. And when the hurdle was crossed they listened to me recite the journey in excitement even though they had walked it with me. Even though I am parenting my son alone I have not yet felt lonely on this journey. The skills I have gained from actively participating on Policy Council and being a Parent Ambassador will serve me for the rest of my life. I know I would not be the person I am today if it weren't for Kitsap Community Resources as an agency and the quality HeadStart Early HeadStart/ECEAP program they offer.

Natasha and her son are part of the Head Start family!

Head Start is School, not Daycare!

by Vance Jared

I don’t usually write letters, but the impact of the Head Start program in my family’s life has been tremendous. Both of my boys received the services that Head Start provides. I was a parent in the program for three years. After the first year of my children being enrolled, I noticed exponential progress in their cognitive skills and demeanor. The highly qualified and experienced teachers have a specified curriculum that is similar to what the children will experience once they reach kindergarten. The children learn about healthy nutrition, sharing, table etiquette, teeth brushing, discipline in a classroom setting, educational curriculum they will need to know once transitioned, socialization with kids of similar age, respect for diversity and so on… The services don’t just stop there. Each Direct Service Team includes an FSC (social worker), who works with the families and provides preventative, wrap around services for the family as a whole. 

The Head Start program set my boys up great for their transition to kindergarten. They both received awards every quarter in elementary school for academic success and outstanding behavior. I like to believe it’s all my doing, but Head Start is the real unsung hero. I feel this program would benefit every child in America. Unfortunately, you have to meet certain financial criteria to be accepted and there are only a limited number of slots. All I can say is “Keep up the great work Head Start! We love what you’re doing.”

Vance is an involved dad because of Head Start!


by Megan S.

I remember getting to join my brother, who is just one year older than me, in "school" and feeling so lucky that I got to learn and play with the older kids. We sang songs and played outside, but most of all, I loved story time with my teacher. I had learned to read a bit by the time I went to Head Start. She had a true gift for voicing characters from the stories, and she made them come to life.

I also remember that I got to take a bus to school. That was about the COOLEST thing ever. I loved it.

When we moved to Castledale, Utah, my parents had three young kids under age five, plus a baby about to be born. My mother wanted us to be in preschool (not just day care), so we enrolled in Head Start. We were lucky that there was a Head Start in the area -- I was part of a small percentage of students who didn't meet the poverty mark but were able to attend because it was our only early learning opportunity.

I was a young but eager learner, so the opportunity to be with peers and learn had an indelible impact on my life. I believe that having support and success in a school environment early in my life set me up to succeed as an adult.

I was raised as a "Woman Who Can Do Things." (Thanks, Mom!) From an early age, I really believed I could go on to do great things in life, and I think a lot of that confidence and belief stems from seeing for myself that I could succeed in school. For me, school started with Head Start. And it gave me the head start I needed to go on a foreign exchange at age 15 (Lisbon, Portugal), graduate from high school at age 17, start working on political campaigns at age 19, and go on to be a successful professional. My experience at Head Start was so positive that I think it helped me envision a positive, successful future for myself.

Amazing Child

by Starla B.

Before Head Start I did not want to put my son in public school. My husband and I have horror stories from school and I fully intended on homeschooling my son. I received a letter from my local Head Start letting me know that my son could go. I wanted to see what the school system was like in Wa and I was pleasantly surprised. My son is 4 and attending Head Start again next year and his teachers have nothing but encouragement for his millions of questions and excitement for learning. He can already count to 100, identify and write all of his letters, write his full name, and write his address. He is already showing interest in reading. I am so thrilled with my head start and my son's amazing teacher Carla and teacher Natalia, my mind is changed and I think that public school would be the best place for my son. I am so grateful for this opportunity. I love the snohomish county head start program. I am part of the parent leadership counsel and I really feel like I have a voice about what happens at school. It has really changed how I feel about the public school system.

Cheyanne, Head Start Mom

A New Life

by Christianna Clinton

I am a 28 year old mother of a 17 month old. I found out about Early Head Start through the shelter I was living in and applied to the program to increase my daughters learning opportunity. Allyvia started the program in September 2011 while still in transitional housing.

Through Early Head Start I have learned to encourage my daughter to learn in everyday activities. My daughter has a favorite song she loves to sing “Tick-Tock” that was taught by her Home Visitor. She has knows how to say and sign please, thank you, and welcome. 

As I have progressed in the program, I have learned to follow through with my goals. I am a single mom who has gotten out of a domestic violence shelter. I am currently a sophomore in college working towards getting my nursing degree. I feel I am setting an example to my daughter that no matter how hard life seems to be, you need to push forward and work through it. 

I am very grateful for my Home Visitor and all that she does for me and Allyvia. She gives me opportunities to grow and learn as a parent and Allyvia grows and learns as a child. This program is important because it aids in what I feel is lost in families today… spending time, quality-time, with our children without computers, phones games or TV as an option. 

Christianna is opening a window of opportunity for her daughter!

Head Start is a Blessing

by Brad Willkie

When my son was born, he was very delayed. He had low muscle tone and didn't talk until he was 2 1/2 years old. He also had some behavioral challenges. Getting him into the Head Start Program has not only helped my son but my family as well. My son in now able to write his name, sing ABC's, count, follow classroom rules and routines. He also knows colors and shapes and much more. He has learned all of this because he is in the Head Start Program. Head Start had been a blessing to my family and I am honored and blessed to have my son in the program.  

Letter from a Head Start Staff

by Barbara H.

I am a Parent Services Specialist. The following letter was sent to me by another PSS regarding a family in Head Start that I worked with...

" I wanted to let you know that I met with MK yesterday and she told me that you had a life long effect in 2 ways: 

1. she now takes her children to the dentist on a regular schedule.

2. she loves working at Head Start and is considering going back to get her ECE degree. 

She told me you were the one that pushed her into both of those areas of improvement and is pleased with both. I thought it would be nice for you to hear that you had an impact and made a difference. 

- J"

I Owe it All to Head Start

by Tim Reilly

Before I got custody of my son, he was declared a feral child by the State of WA. He associated himself as a dog and did not talk at all. When I got custody of him, I got him into the Head Start Program and in one month, he was talking and following classroom routines like all the other children in his class. I owe it all to Head Start. It's a wonderful program that I wish more families were able to be apart of. 

Dionna, Head Start Mom

Head Start Education and Support

by Trena Haywood

Raising a Grandchild has not been easy, and I never expected the support that I have received from our Head Start program. My grandson has flourished this year as a result of his experiences, education and support from the program staff.   Head Start has empowered me in the role of a parent as my child's first teacher, participation in parent training, and opportunities in building a strong committment to education within our community. Our Family Advocate has provided me with the tools and resources to help my Grandson be successful in school and in life. Not only has the program met his needs, in the process it s also met mine. 

My passion has become the education of our children, and the well-being of every family. I will continue to support others in my community, provide resources that I have found, share my experiences and encourage educational involvement.

My current role as a parent leader. 

I have been able to attend trainings, and I advocate for all Washington families that are in need. I am currently a Washington State Representative for my Regional Early Education Service District Program, as well as a Washington State Parent Ambassador. I was able to meet legislators and bring family stories that made an impact on this year's budget. If I could say one thing to other parents everywhere, it would ask each of you to volunteer in some way, for your child. 

Improvements in My Child

by Janell Wallace

Since being in Head Start I have seen my child begin to open up more and not be afraid to speak up. She has learned how to share, which being an only child has made my daughter deem everything as "mine."

She is more outgoing, fun, smarter and more aware of her surroundings. She loves school and we are all extremely happy. 

The Joys of Head Start

by Erika Bunch-Lopez

Head Start has been a positive influence on our family in so many ways! 

My son Elyjuh is now in the first grade, and despite the fact that he is the youngest in his class, he is in the highest reading group.

My daughter Arainuh is in Head Start now, and will be going into kindergarten after this summer is over. She is already at the kindergarten level. She can read several words, right her name, along with many other words, and believe it or not, knows a few math facts as well! (:

Head Start has not only helped my kids, but has also helped me become a better advocate for my children. It all started out when I became a represenitive for my center on the policy council. I used to be extremely shy and quite, but I have definately overcome that obstacle with the help of Head Start. I'm so greatful to be a part of this program. Also that my kids have learned so much as well. Thank you!


by Madison Erickson-Corp

This story comes from my 5 year old daughter, Madison. She is currently attending Head Start for the second year. I will be typing her words exactly as she says them.

ME:  "What do you like about Head Start and what have you learned?"

MADISON:  "I work on ABC's. They teached me new songs I didn't know before. I'm learning not to be so shy. I get to paint there and do fun activities like tracing kangaroos and making pockets. I like playing with Lily, Cheyanne, Brielle, Natalie, Aiden, Mario, Ashley, Ashley, Candace and all my friends. I like the food they give me at preschool. I like their soups. I like their stories. They have stories there I already know like the Very Hungry Caterpillar. I like their books. I am excited to go to kindergarten with my friends Lily and Morganne."


by Lorena & Juan

Por medio de la precente quiero expresar nuestra experiencia como familia, en Head Start & Early Head Start.

Hemos resivido muchisimo apollo en la educacion de nuestra hija, y evando tenemos alguna inquietud, el personal de Head Start son muy amables y muy accesibles para ayudarnos a resolver cualquier problema o inquieted que se nos precenta yo en lo personal estoy muy contenta y muy agradecida con el servico recibido de Head Start, pero especialmente my agradecimiento infinito con la maestra RaeLyn Castro, la maestra Joyce Romberger y la trabajadora social Shannon Cunningham. Hacen un trabajo extraordinario, tienen una entrega y una dedicacion muy especial con los alumnos, y tambien se toman el tiempo para apoyar al resto de la familia para que todas formemos un  gran equipo y nuestros hijos, aprendan mejor y tenga un buen desarrollo. 

P.D. Gracias por ayudarnos no solo con el desarrollo de nuestra hija Ashley P., sino con la ayuda queresivimos como familia.

The Power of Belonging to a Head Start Program

by RaeLyn Castro

As a Head Start teacher I have been privileged to watch the transformation of a family of 5 over the last three years. This family began in my classroom, then went on to two other classrooms and teachers.

When they started, the mother always had her head hung low and did not make eye contact and walked behind everyone else. Both Mom and Dad did not speak unless someone spoke first. Within their small family, they had two cultures and two languages. Consequently, the children rarely spoke and the son resorted to body language to get his needs met. I met monthly with mom and dad to work on literacy, behaviors, and school readiness skills.

Each family member was over-weight; most meals came from fast foods due to several factors.

Last year I began to notice the transformation and this year it brings tears to my eyes every time I see this family. Mom holds her head up high, smiling often and greeting staff. She continues to be a regular volunteer in the classroom each week. Each family member has slimmed down tremendously; lots of walking and playing in the park. I witness both mom and dad interacting with their children in loving and educational ways. The son is very well mannered, respectful to elders, and helpful to his mom and younger siblings and a good student at public school. The middle child shows excitement to learn and belong to her peer groups in her classroom. The toddler is beaming smiles and joining into learning activities each week in the classroom.

I am thrilled for this family and their transformation! They have worked hard to embrace learning and fitting into a new culture and community. I am so proud of them.

John, Head Start Dad

Conflict Skills v. Bullying

by Daniel Garvin

My daughter would be a different child if it was not for the Head Start early learning program. When I was a child, being a bully was a way of surviving in school so I wanted to make sure my daughter didn't get bullied by teaching her to be a bully. I am so thankful to the early learning program for teaching not only my daughter but myself as well that bullying is not proper or okay. I am so proud that my daughter is able to handle conflicts without being a bully. She learned those skill in preschool and she has passed on her skills to her younger siblings. I wish I would have been in a preschool program like Head Start when I was a child. 

Early Learning is Amazing

by Crystal Garvin

Head Start early learning program is an amazing program that has helped my children and my family succeed. My oldest child is now in kindergarten and is doing better than I could have ever expected. Because of early learning and the curriculum they use, my daughter is able to read, write, and tell stories in full detail. She is an asset to her class and loves to help her peers. I asked my daughter what she remembers from preschool and she had a long list to tell me. Some of the things she shared with me were cooking with teachers because they let the kids help, making crafts, drawing and writing in her journal, dressing up with friends, writing letters to family, and playing with teachers because the teachers made her feel very nice. I remember when she was in preschool that she liked a lot of children and she had a special connection with each of her teachers. I really felt that her teachers respected every child in the room and made them all feel like they belonged and were safe. I also felt that I was always welcome in the class. 

My middle child is currently in the early learning program and is also doing amazing. This is her second year of preschool and I feel truly blessed that she is able to receive two years of preschool because we were concerned that she may have a social emotional delay but because of the positive setting in her class and her teachers support to her and our family, we were able to work with our child so she could gain the confidence to play with other children that she did not know. She now has many friends and is always very excited to tell me about the new friend she has made at school. When I asked her what she likes best about school, she said she likes that the teachers are so nice, that she has lots of friends, she likes playing outside with friends, and that she can teach friends to not be bad. She really cares for all of her friends and they are very important to her. I am so thankful to the early learning program for all the positive encouragement they have offered to my daughter.   

A Place of Inclusion

by Dawn Schulz

Head Start is a valuable program to our family because it has provided my daughter with the learning opportunities that she wouldn’t have gotten elsewhere. As a child with Down syndrome she has experienced an integrated preschool classroom, learning side by side with her typically developing peers. 

It has been wonderful for her socially and emotionally and she has made great academic progress. With its well structured educational environment, Head Start has been an important step in preparing my daughter for the transition to kindergarten. It’s an active, fun place for her to learn!

There often are not as many preschool options for special needs children as there are for their typically developing peers and my family and I are very thankful for Head Start.


by Lisa Thomas

Head Start has been great for our family. The staff is very supportive, helpful and kind not only for the children but to their families as well. We all want what is best for our children and so does Head Start. My son, Vin, has benefited from the services of Head Start.

The changes that have occurred in Vin is more expressive language than before being in Head Start. He talked a lot before but now when he talks its more detail and longer sentences. He has also improved his social boundaries.
Prior to attending Head Start he would just walk up to people and give them hugs without asking. He would interrupt people without being aware of it. Now he will ask “Can I give you a hug?” He even now asks to help and imitates me doing things around the house and says “Mom can I help you with dishes?” “Mom, can I help you set the table?”

I am very impressed with the things that my son Vin has learned at Head Start. I see him grow more and more each week and his manners are changing all the time. He is aware of his surroundings and now asks how people are doing and if they need anything. I am very thankful for Head Start and this experience has been great. 

Heather, Head Start Mom

"Temporary" Position?

by Lisa Crum

In May of 1980 I was out of work and looking for a job, any job. A worker at the local Unemployment Office asked if I might be interested in working for Head Start for a 3 month period over the summer. My first question was "what's Head Start"? At that point I had no idea what the program looked like or how quickly it would become such an important part of my life's journey. The position was as a classroom aide for an experimental summer program. I was very excited to report for orientation on May 19th. 

On May 18th Mt. Saint Helens erupted and covered our area with volcanic ash. Everything shut down. I called and called the center for a week before I got to talk to someone and find out if I still had a job or not. I did! The summer program didn't work out due to attendance issues because we couldn't provide transportation. The job however did work out. I became an Assistant Teacher that fall. I learned huge amounts of information on child development through workshops, conferences and college classes. I earned my CDA and became a Lead Teacher a few years later. Eventually I completed my college degree. 

I know the knowledge I gained greatly assisted me in raising my own children. I have watched the program grow and learn more and more effective ways to make an impact on young children and the families who love them. I have worked with young parents who walked in our doors with very low self esteem and watched them become leaders in Parent Center Committe, Policy Council and become valuable volunteers in our classrooms. I was at a very low point myself when I started working for Head Start. It has been my privilege to witness thousands of "I did it teacher" moments of success. 

Over my years in the classroom I have been able to see just how important parent involvement in their child's education is. Those are the children who have done well in school and even gone on to pursue higher education. I have been pleased to have families ask for me as their child's teacher. I beleive so much in the program that I enrolled my own daughter. I had fun arranging my schedule so I could volunteer in her class and appreciated management allowing me to do this.  I now do Disabilities Coodination and supervise and coach the teachers in our center. While my responsibilities have changed, my favorite thing is to go spend time in the classrooms. It is now going on 32 years later and I'm very grateful for the impact that "3 month temporary position" had in my life.


by Lisa Grenia

As an adult I never learned the basics of government. I did not know how to contact my lawmakers and why I, or anyone else, would even want to do such a thing.  I never truly understood the importance of voting and I definitely did not believe that my voice could make a difference in my city, let alone in the state of Washington.  

After my daughter, Maya, enrolled in preschool at the Lower Columbia College Head Start I was educated by school officials and other Head Start/ECEAP parents on the importance of help in the classroom, generating in-kind, and attending parent meetings.  Soon I was the classroom representative for Maya’s class.  At one of the first few Policy Council meetings, I was informed that dedicated parents were needed to take more active roles and was elected Washington State Head Start Representative.  The training for this new position was very helpful but not just for the school; it was helpful in many aspects of my personal life. I brought home some of our teachings to use when addressing my daughter and my husband.  This initial training was a jumping off point for better family communication, as well as how to effectively talk to other parents about being active in school processes.

I was thrilled with my new position as Head Start State Rep but did not yet see how important it was. Throughout many of the meetings I kept hearing about this wonderful group of Parent Ambassadors that my friend, Robb was in.  Robb and others were doing many things throughout the state and making a difference.  My family advocate, Maribeth Foster had pointed out that I may want to look into it since I was already a hands-on parent.  Not long after, Sandy Junker and Robb Atherton had both sent me the application with a note sharing their thoughts on why I may want to fill out for the position. With three people believing in me, I decided to step outside my comfort zone and at least apply.  My low self esteem told me I would not be picked anyways so what was stopping me. Perhaps I was dragging my feet because, again, I had never believed that one person could make a difference, especially with the connotation of being low income. With all of these thoughts in my mind I kept coming back to one in particular: Robb had told me that this program “changed his life” and that was a strong statement if you know his background. 

Needless to say, I filled out the application with the hopes of being selected as one of the 20 or so parents selected for the Parent Ambassador program throughout the entire state of Washington. I still had no idea the education, experience, and friendships I would make through this yearlong advocacy training and leadership program. I knew the idea was to learn communication and leadership skills, legislative advocacy and grassroots organizing from past Parent Ambassadors, as well as from WSA Executive Director, Joel Ryan, Lori Pittman, and Katy Warren.  Hearing many speakers like leadership expert Tracy Flynn, CPS social worker Jennifer Andrade, WSA lobbyist Lonnie Johns Brown, and the many experiences brought to the table by the other Parent Ambassadors gave me the skills to be able participate in efforts that show other parents in our local areas that their voices are important and need to be heard, as well as getting my own voice out there.  The grocery store line has been one of my greatest platforms for sharing information.  I have also been active in collecting signatures to be sent to our Senators and Governor in regards to the importance of early childhood education, meeting 18th and 19th district lawmakers, as well as signing a multitude of petitions for what I believe in.  I have spoke at parent meetings, sharing the significance of writing letters, making phone calls, attending town hall meetings, and showing others how to advocate for what they feel is important on both the state and federal level.  Our efforts are working and I have seen it with my own eyes: we were a cornerstone in defeating Governor Gregoire’s plan to cut child care assistance, we are making sure funding for early childhood education is on the minds of representative such as Ann Rivers, Dean Takko, Brian Blake, Jamie Herrera and Joseph Zarelli. Before participating in the program I thought none of these people would even have taken me seriously.  I felt the government was only out for themselves and the money they can get from their power.  I was defeated. This program has taught me self confidence, the magnitude of legislation, the power of one person, the abundance of resources we can use through social media sites to reach a wide audience of like minded people, the handiness of knowing Robert’s Rules of order, and that other people feel like I did.  I want to make a difference for families and I want others, especially the often-left-out low income parents, to know what they are voting on.

The most amazing part of all is that I feel a change has been swirling inside of me. One that cannot go back to my old ways and one that is proud to be showing my daughter the importance of volunteerism, diligence, and tactful leadership.  Since enrolling in the program I have been offered a new and wonderful position as lead instructor of a children’s after school fitness regimen brought locally through a Physical Education Program grant.  I received multiple training certificates, helped put on the Cowlitz County Health & Prevention Fair, lead free boot camp and yoga lessons for multiple organizations like the Highlands Activities and Beautification Committee, as well as the Washington State Association.  In 2010 I received an Associates Degree in Sports Management, and am now about a year from a Bachelors in Nutrition Science. 

My husband has also been inspired to lend his handyman abilities in leaf blowing business parking lots, helping out at the Cowlitz County Health & Prevention Fair, attending regular parent meetings, as well as running his first ever race.
I would never be able to repay you all!  Thank you for the abundant opportunities.

Head Start Helped Me Reach My Goals

by Kezia Willingham   

I first got involved with Head Start shortly after I graduated from Oregon State University in 2001.  I was a single mother and former high school dropout, so graduating from college was a really big deal to me. When I first found out that I was pregnant, I was determined to be the best mom I could be.  Finishing my education was the best way I thought I could improve myself as both a provider and a mother.

I'd been planning on going to graduate school, but at the last minute, I found out my Section 8 paperwork didn't transfer to the city where I'd been accepted to graduate school.  Having to make a quick decision, and not having any money for rent or expenses in the meantime, I gave up my dream of grad school and let the admissions office know that I would not be attending.

I applied for welfare and began looking for work because when you graduate from college there is no lump sum or paycheck waiting for you.  My daughter had just turned four years old and had been in childcare since she was three months old.  My real dream had been to be a stay at home mom, but since I wasn't married and was not independently wealthy, I had decided that finishing my education was the best thing I could do to provide for my daughter.

The summer of 2001, when I realized I didn't have enough money for grad school, I applied for every social work job I was qualified for.  This is when I learned about Head Start.  There was a Family Advocate job, a part time position that involved enrolling families in the program and helping to encourage families to obtain their goals.  I applied for the job and at the same time applied for my daughter to go to Head Start.  We both got in!  I went from welfare to work in a matter of months and my daughter got a quality preschool experience for a few hours a day while I was at work.

My Family Advocate job paid $13/hr, not enough to move forward financially, but I did get off welfare and I got health benefits for my daughter and myself.  

As I got to know the Performance Standards, I felt great about working for a program that encouraged parent involvement and advocacy.  I totally agreed with the philosophy of parent empowerment and the role of parents as children's first teachers.  I learned about the importance of preventative health care.  My daughter had her first trip to the dentist and we found she had four cavities.  During her vision screening process, we discovered she needed glasses.

I learned Head Start as I experienced it simultaneously as both a parent and worker.  My own Family Advocate, Sue Tangeman, at Kidco Head Start listened to my dream of graduate school and encouraged me to consider to pursue my dreams.  While I loved Head Start, I had an unrequited desire to earn my master's degree in social work.

I got involved in the Oregon State Head Start Association and learned more about advocacy.  I lobbied in Salem and took a parent that I worked with there with me.  We successfully invited state representatives to visit our program.  I felt like I could make a difference not only in my life, and my daughter's, but in those of the parents I served as well.

The next year I decided to apply for grad school again.  I decided to apply only to schools on the west coast, knowing it would be easier to move if I didn't try to cross the country.  I was accepted into both programs and in September 2003 I began my master's degree program in Seattle with a tuition fellowship.

Single parenting in the city was not easy, but I earned my MSW and went to work full time as a Family Services Provider for Seattle Public Schools Head Start in 2005.  In 2010 I became the Health Coordinator, where I oversee our health services.  I am particularly passionate about the Oral Health Initiative, as I feel we have great potential to educate our families on the importance of preventative oral health care.  I enjoy the collaborations I develop with our community partners in building a strong Health Services Advisory Committee to ensure that our children have access to quality health services within our program and in our city.

Head Start has been an opportunity for me to grow personally and professionally.  I have learned to embrace myself and the families that I work with for our strengths instead of our weaknesses.  I see each child and family for what they are instead of what they are not.  I see and value the importance of the family as the primary educator, and I know the importance of being encouraged and told to reach for my dreams as opposed to being told that they are impossible.  My own daughter learned how to read during her time in Head Start and was identified as intellectually gifted in kindergarten.  I have learned to advocate for her needs over the years and have maintained her preventative health care services as she's grown.  I have learned so much from Head Start and hope to give back as much as I have received.  If the rest of our public education system could incorporate a strengths-based, comprehensive approach towards educating our most vulnerable families, I believe we as a nation might really be able to do something about the achievement gap.  

Kezia & Zinnia