Laure Hopper is the Program Director of South Central Human Resource Agency Head Start and Early Head Start in Fayetteville, Tennessee, where she leads what she describes as one of the hardest-working teams in the United States.
One long-term goal that Laure had not yet realized before the pandemic was to develop natural playgrounds and encourage more outdoor time connected to nature rather than static plastic play structures. With the benefits and additional safety of outdoor time becoming more urgent due to COVID-19, Laure managed to accelerate this vision at her program sites, changes that will benefit future generations of children in the years to come.
As Laure navigated the challenges of 2020, she prioritized flexibility, communication, and coming together as a team. “While we, as a program, cannot solve all of the problems that COVID-19 brought into our lives,” Laure reflected, “we can alleviate the feelings of isolation and help provide a support system to help us get through this adversity.” And that’s what Laure did for families and staff.
The program’s service area covers a large rural landscape, which made all-staff meetings fairly infrequent and challenging before the pandemic. But Laure recognized her team’s need to be in communication with one another not only to understand the rapidly changing health guidance and operating plans but also to feel connected and supported.
The South Central Human Resources Agency Head Start and Early Head Start staff now have weekly virtual meetings, and even as changes have begun to slow down, the staff have expressed the desire to maintain this regular schedule because it has allowed them to connect with each other — despite the geographic distance — in a meaningful way.
In her own words:
“I have learned that we are a strong team with deep roots in our mission. I have been reminded that getting to our intended goal does not have to follow the same path as long as we reach our destination.
My advice to other programs is to stick together because a team spirit is needed when encountering unknown situations. Teams often follow the leader’s demeanor. A stressed leader is likely to have a stressed team. I have focused on the idea of being fluid during this experience and I believe that my team has followed suit.”
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