Ever since I became an American citizen, elections have always filled me with a sense of hopeā€”probably because they represent a stark contrast to my childhood. Growing up in the former Yugoslavia, my parents explained that there was only one party for whom we could vote. They were forced to show up at the polling place and cast a meaningless vote. You can imagine how irrational such an explanation used to sound to my young mind.

In contrast, we have American democracyā€”an experiment began over two centuries ago that many thought was impossible. In the years since its inception, the United States has changed and grown in ways unimaginable to those who first declared their independence. Through a civil war, the fight for womenā€™s rights, the right to vote, civil rights, a changing media landscape, an ever-evolving justice system, a pandemic, and more, the American democracy has endured.

While not a perfect system, the American way strives to be better and fairer today than it was yesterday. It is this system, after all, that created the Head Start program in 1965 and has continued its commitment to vulnerable children and families ever since.

I think you would all agree that Head Start believesā€”very deeplyā€”in civic engagement. We believe in creating opportunities for our staff, our families, and our communities to cast their ballot and to make their voice heard.

There is power in numbers. Head Start centers and programs are nonpartisan, but they are not indifferent. Head Start employees can participate in voter engagement activities with a few limitations. Learn more about Head Start Employee Dos and Donā€™ts when it comes to voter engagement.

If you do want to do more, the opportunities are many, regardless of the party or candidate you choose to support. NHSA staff have participated and continue to participate in election-related events. And you, too, can:

  1. You can volunteer or work on political campaigns of candidates ranging from those for school board or mayor, to state legislators or members of Congress – in your free time.
  2. You can knock on doors, phone bank, and volunteer to work at the polls at the next general election.
  3. You can talk with your classroom about what Election Day is and why it’s important. These conversations will help start the next generation on a pathway to the polls.

Head Start is not a voting block; we are part of the fabric of the U.S. On Election Day, we will cast our votes not only in honor of all those who came before us, but in honor of ourselves, our families, and our communities. One vote can make a difference. Every voice can lift up a community.

This Election Day, stand up and make sure your voice is counted. And remember: when we cast our ballots, we are participating in one of humanityā€™s most extraordinary experiments ever conducted.

Yasmina Vinci

Yasmina Vinci is the executive director of the National Head Start Association.

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