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Day 3 Recap: Darren Walker, Valerie Jarrett, and Jonathan Capehart Discuss Head Start

Given that I have been blogging away these past few days I thought perhaps I should introduce myself. My name is Evita Almassi and I provide NHSA’s voice on our social media outlets.  I am a Seattle-lite born and raised and like most Seattle-lites I love a good cup of coffee and am a dedicated University of Washington Husky Fan.  I am very excited to be a part of NHSA and am looking forward being a part of the future of Head Start!

“I believe in America. I believe in an America where we can fulfill our promise to our kids”.— Darren Walker

“Every single child should have access to high quality early childhood education regardless of their parent’s income”. —Valerie Jarrett

The third day of NHSA’s Annual Conference certainly started with a bang at the special general session! We were thrilled to welcome Valerie Jarrett, Senior Advisor to President Obama, Darren Walker, President and CEO of The Ford Foundation, and Jonathan Capehart, a Pulitzer Prize winning  MSNBC News Correspondent for a lively and engaging conversation about the importance of expanding access to early childhood education.

We could all feel excitement in the air as thousands of conference attendees made their way up and filled the room. I was asked several times, “Is Valerie Jarrett coming?” You could feel the positive energy and the fact that folks simply couldn’t wait to hear from the speakers!

No one is a more staunch advocate for investment in human capital than Darren Walker, a Head Start Alum. “Children far and wide need to feel as though we are cheering them on,” Darren said.  

Valerie Jarrett, one of President Obama’s most trusted advisors, echoed this sentiment when she said that the White House is urging Congress and leaders to make investments in Early Childhood Education and Head Start. She reinforced this further by emphatically stating that everyone, regardless of their circumstance, should be allowed the opportunity to pursue their dreams.

We are so excited to be moving the conversation forward in looking ahead to the future of of Head Start and Early Childhood Education. It was especially inspiring to hear that 36 governors across 36 States in this country view Early Childhood Education as a priority.

There is simply no mistaking it: the time is here and now for our kids! After celebrating our history, our successes, and reflecting on the work that will be continued, we are now more energized than ever.

If there is one thing I have come to realize this week it is that there can be no doubt about Head Start and about our vision. There is so much power in numbers! All 5,000 of us here believe that every child can succeed and that we can impact the success of at-risk children. Quality early education fundamentally transforms children and families, and we need to ensure that access to high quality programs is not just for the few but is made available to all!