The National Head Start Association celebrates Women’s History Month by recognizing a few Head Start alumnae blazing trails and leaving indelible legacies in their communities. 

Eileen Conoboy

Recruitment Advisor, Peace Corps

Head Start Hometown: Fairfax, Virginia

Eileen credits Head Start with helping her find her superpower…reading. Head Start was part of the safety net her mother needed when she was 20 years old, widowed with two young children, and pregnant with her third child. ”It’s hard to know how the sliding doors of life would have turned out if I hadn’t attended Head Start,” she states. “But I do know it instilled in me a love of books, and that’s opened so many figurative and literal doors throughout my life.”

Eileen is a first-generation college graduate and works as a Peace Corps Recruitment Advisor, developing new strategies to diversify and increase international engagement through Peace Corps service. “While at Head Start, I looked forward to the meals and found comfort in the classroom routines, but it was the books and the stories that gave me my first sense of all that was possible.”

Dr. Richeleen Dashield

Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI), New York University Silver School of Social Work

Head Start Hometown: East Orange, New Jersey


As an advocate for equality in higher education, Dr. Dashield knows the difference access can make. “I credit my lifelong journey with Head Start. Without it, I don’t think I’d be on the same trajectory.” Dr. Dashield was a voracious young learner, and when she arrived at elementary school, was recommended to skip right past kindergarten and into first grade. However, her mother decided to let her remain with her age cohort. She says the early access to education she received from Head Start is part of why she was so well prepared for success in school. 

As an educational leader, Dr. Dashield sees her work as part of larger efforts to advocate for educational systems that center human dignity and worth and deliver equitable access to learning.

Drinal Foster

Senior Vice President of Wealth and Investment Management Technology, Wells Fargo

Head Start Hometown: Seattle, Washington


As Wells Fargo’s Senior Vice President of Wealth and Investment Management Technology, Drinal Foster leads global, forward-leaning employee engagement and experience strategies to build a high-performing workforce. She serves on several boards of directors centered around youth and youth development, where she seeks to make a positive difference in her community. 

Drinal and her mother often discuss Head Start’s role in her early adjustment to school and the difference it made for her. When thinking about Head Start’s impact, Drinal says, “Head Start helped me to socially connect and learn critical skills at such a young age. My parents were blue-collar workers; early in my mother’s life, she was a janitor for a local bank, and now I’m an executive of one of the top four banks in the country. That’s an amazing trajectory, but what’s even more amazing is that Head Start is full of these stories!”

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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