Since I joined the National Head Start Association in 2009 I have been astonished by the breadth of voices – both within and outside the Head Start community – sharing stories, opinions, and ideas about how early childhood education can be the window of opportunity for a lifetime of success for every child. These diverse, powerful, and provocative voices need a space where they can be collected, shared and discussed. That’s why I decided to launch this blog.
Beginning next week, this space will be filled with their voices – Head Start alumni, Members of Congress, economists, business leaders, NHSA staff, and many others. You are invited to read and comment, and encouraged to pass along links to your friends and networks. Visit www.nhsa.org to find out more about NHSA. Let me start by telling you why I believe you will find their voices important.
Some time ago, I wheeled into a DC hotel for a meeting of the Commission on Head Start Fellowships. Having broken an ankle in a bicycling accident I was pushing myself in a wheelchair through deep carpet and making poor progress. With a big conference in the hotel, crowds of people were rushing by, oblivious to my struggle. Suddenly, a young man stopped, asked if he could help and, over my half-hearted objections, insisted on pushing me across acres of carpet to my meeting room. He shared that he was in the hotel for a meeting of an engineering society of which he was a member. When he found out why I was there, he stopped us and introduced himself as a former Head Start child. We stood there – well, I sat – and he explained what a huge difference Head Start had made in his life. He was an engineer, with years of education and professional experience, but gave credit to Head Start for opening to him a world of opportunity.
Later, thinking about what he told me, I was struck by the significance he gave to an experience he had so early in his life. And since I have joined NHSA, encounters like that have become very familiar. It seems that everywhere I go I encounter another Head Start alum with another heartwarming story of Head Start experience. It shouldn’t surprise me – after all, there are more than 27 million of them – and their stories are always deeply impressive. Some of them, like Dr. Calvin Moore, Youlanda Upkins, Loukisha Smart-Pennix, Jose Luis Carrizales, and Dr. Rory Brown Sipp have gone on to give back to Head Start by providing inspired leadership to Head Start programs. Others, like Tonya Russell in Arkansas and John Gasco in Texas are building states’ systems of early care and education, based on and aligned with lessons and principles of Head Start. Some are elected officials; others are doctors, lawyers, entrepreneurs, teachers, musicians, college and high school students, athletes and community activists. Some are celebrities while others are regular folks. But all of them are special because of that early window of opportunity that opened for them with Head Start.
Next week, Rep. Loretta Sanchez will blog about her experiences as a Head Start child, how Head Start helped shape her future, and how she stays involved with Head Start today.
- Yasmina Vinci