Thank you to Head Start alumna Chau Bang Nguyen for this guest post.
"I grew up in a large, blended family on the northside of Minneapolis. My parents were loving, hard-working immigrants from Vietnam. Unfortunately, gunshots and violence were a regular part of the city’s soundtrack in our neighborhood. But my parents believed in the importance and value of education.
That’s why my father enrolled me at Parents in Community Action (PICA) Head Start. My start in preschool was a little rocky. I cried a lot. I had severe anxiety about being separated from my family and not speaking English. But I remember my teacher holding me, and that comforted me. And soon, I was learning English and enjoying being at school. Head Start was the inspiration for me wanting a community-based career that focused on servant leadership.
After high school, I started college but dropped out. During this time, I learned that I was expecting my first child. Knowing I would be a mother inspired me to return to college and finish my degree. I wanted my child to see me accomplish my goals. There were many challenges but with a lot of hard work and sacrifice, I earned a bachelor of Sociology in Law, Criminology, and Deviance. I thought I would become a police officer. Understandably, my family, especially my mother, was concerned about me going into a dangerous field. Their concern, plus being a single mother, made me rethink my professional goals. I decided to transition to education, and PICA Head Start, which first welcomed me when I was a frightened preschooler, was the ideal place to help me do that.
For me, it was necessary to work my way up and learn as much as I could about Head Start from every aspect. Even though I had a four-year degree, I started with PICA as a teaching assistant. My supervisor was instrumental in mentoring and supporting me as I progressed to lead teacher and then became an early learning mentor coach, where I trained all PICA teaching staff in the Classroom Assessment Scoring System (CLASS) framework.
A few years ago, I earned a school administrative license and it was bittersweet when I decided to take a leadership role in a public middle school. Still, my PICA family wished me nothing but success. I gained invaluable experiences in the K-12 environment that only strengthened me as an educational leader but the saying, “there’s no place like home” is true. I missed my PICA family. So I was thrilled when given the opportunity to return and bring my knowledge and experiences back to the place that has given me so much.
I feel fortunate and blessed to be a part of Head Start. Coming home to PICA is the best decision I’ve ever made."
— Chau Bang Nguyen, director of Education at Parents in Community Action in Minneapolis, MN