Willing Chin-Ma is the managing director for Early Head Start and Head Start at Grand Street Settlement in New York City, where she has worked since 1998. Grand Street Settlement supports more than 850 children and families each year, many of whom are immigrants to the United States and benefit from their high-quality, culturally responsive and multilingual services in Spanish and Chinese.

When COVID-19 hit, Willing and her team quickly pivoted to remote services, raising additional funds, and working with community partners to get personal protective equipment and nutritious food to families, and working closely with parents to engage with their children on educational activities. On top of meeting families’ physical needs, Willing offered culturally responsive emotional support to Grand Street Settlement’s many Chinese families who were experiencing an increase in hateful rhetoric and violence towards Asian Americans. Willing and Grand Street also supported the mental health of their staff with weekly individual counseling sessions with their mental health consultant.

In her own words:

“I provided strong leadership during the pandemic and transitioned all our Early Head Start and Head Start programs to remote learning. I gave clear directions on how to operate our programs and continued to measure the outcomes of the services for the families. There were no gaps in services and we engaged every family and child with respect and compassion. My hope is to continue to support the families with health, education, and guidance to help their children grow and reduce fear and trauma.”

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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