Vanessa Rich Leadership Award

This award celebrates the memory of Vanessa Rich, a former Head Start director, parent, and leader from Chicago who served as the chairwoman of the NHSA Board of Directors from 2013-2016.

The award is intended for a new Head Start or Early Head Start Director with three years or less of service who is carrying on Vanessa’s legacy of “Head Start doesn’t stop on the front porch, it comes all the way into the house.” The nominee will be awarded a complimentary registration and travel stipend to one of the NHSA Leadership Institutes to join us NHSA as a speaker.

The nominee must:

  • Be a new director with three years or less experience
  • Provide a letter of recommendation from two people who know the nominee in their current role
  • Provide a cover letter that describes the following:
    • How they intend to build the future for Head Start
    • Activities and efforts made by the nominee that demonstrate passion for service, advocacy, career growth, and involvement with Head Start.
  • Comply with all NHSA general rules and regulations as listed on the Scholarships & Awards homepage.

Application for 2023 - 24 are now closed. Applications for 2024 - 25 will open fall 2024.

Past Vanessa Rich Leadership Award Recipients

2023-24: Dara Villalpando, Plano Independent School District Head Start, Plano, TX

2022-23: Jessica Coffie, Community Action Council, Lexington, KY

2021-22: Karen Pigues, Institute of Community Services, Holly Springs, MS

2020-21: Kristen Jones, LEADS, Inc., Newark, OH

2019-20: Tracey Johnson, Grand Forks Head Start, Grand Forks, ND