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A Head Start Parent and Children’s Success Story

Told through survey responses submitted to the National Head Start Association

We lived in a small, overpriced apartment in a bad neighborhood when my older children were young. My husband was just finishing his contract with the U.S. Navy, worked for minimum wage and I was unemployed due to the high cost of childcare.

I was looking into preschool for our oldest daughter, who was 3, and because of an October birthday would be entering kindergarten as a 4 year old. I knew she needed some school experience. I ran into an acquaintance who was an ATCAA Family Advocate at the time. She encouraged me to apply, telling me what a wonderful program we have in our county, and to give it a shot.

Presently, my youngest son is attending ATCAA Head Start at the Sonora center in Sonora, CA. He is the youngest of six, all of whom have attended various centers, as well as being enrolled in home base, in the ATCAA Head Start program. Our oldest was enrolled in 2006 and we have been in the program ever since.

My children have loved every moment of their Head Stars experiences. They have gained social skills and academic skills. They have had amazing relationships with their teachers and as each of them moved on to kindergarten their teachers gave high regard for the preparation they had for school.

The benefits that I have reaped as a parent are too many to count. In the aspect of my children, I gained great knowledge when it comes to working with my children. Seeing what they were able to do in the classroom, such as how-to clear their own dishes and serve food themselves, to hearing how the teachers spoke and were able to get a positive response. I quickly gained a strong foundation on which to grow my own parenting style and skills.

The benefits I have reaped for myself are just as exciting. I have found my voice and my strength through participation in Head Start. I immediately had people encouraging me and cheering me on, I was drawn to the position of Family Advocate, but had no idea how to get there.

I joined Policy Council and began volunteering. I was able to see that I have a voice and I can make a difference. A little over three years ago I became an employee. First, as a Family Advocate, then I was helping in the classroom. Next, I become a Home Visitor, and now I also play a part in training and technical support to our Family Advocates. I love what I do and I love that I work for a program that sees my strengths and values my abilities. I have been given so many opportunities to grow and advance and I am excited about what is to come. Without Head Start I may not be quite where I am now.

I feel that without Head Start my family would still be struggling in many ways. I am the type of person who would find my way eventually, but Head Start has been a catalyst, speeding up the process of me finding my place and my family finding its way. I am able to tell the families I work with, and even the ones I’m trying to recruit, that I’m not here because it’s a job, I’m here because I believe in Head Start and what the program stands for.

Head Start is crucial, especially given the chaos that seems to be all around. Head Start isn’t just about teaching children or providing daycare. Schools teach and daycare is available but Head Start is so much more. Head Start is for families and without helping a family there isn’t much that can be done to help the child. I come from a background of abuse and trauma, I had always hoped as a child that someone would come and help my family instead of only trying to fix me. That is why Head Start is a critical investment.

~Chantal Fowler

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