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Thank you to Head Start alumna Tashia Lemon-Guillory for this guest post.

After I graduated college with a degree in early education, I wasn’t sure what I wanted my focus area to be. At that time, I thought I might pursue an advanced degree in social work but I was unsure. It was a visit to my Head Start program that brought the clarity I needed. During an outing with a friend, I paid a visit to my former Head Start center in St. Landry Parish, Louisiana, and encountered my former teacher. I was struck by how after so many years, she was still inspiring children and families. It was then I realized I wanted to have that kind of impact on children and families, and Head Start was the exact place to do that.

I am currently the director of the Lawtell Head Start Center in Lawtell, Louisiana, and I have been here for 18 years. I cherish the opportunity to give back what I received to the same parish where I attended. On a regular basis, as an educator, I get to clearly see the academic and social differences between students who attended Head Start and those who have not.

I have the triple honor of being a Head Start alumna, working in Head Start, and having a child who also attended Head Start. My son Collin recently graduated high school and is attending Livingstone College in Salisbury, North Carolina. He is studying biology and considering a possible career in physical therapy. Like so many others, our family is living proof of the impact Head Start has on children, families, and their trajectories. I attended Head Start, came to work with Head Start, and I remain with Head Start because Head Start changes lives.

— Tashia Lemon-Guillory

Malkia Payton-Jackson

Malkia Payton-Jackson is NHSA’s first-ever director of alumni engagement. Back in Cambridge, Head Start is where she made her first best friend — and now, she’s inviting Head Start alumni to connect with one another, share their unique stories, and help keep Head Start strong for generations to come.

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