A Little Head Start Goes a Long Way

“Children who attend Head Start are more likely to graduate from high school, attend college, and receive a post-secondary degree, license, or certification.”
— Bauer & Schanzenbach, The Hamilton Project / Brookings Institution, 2016

These are just a few examples of success stories from HCS Head Start students, parents, and families.

Steffanie — or “Miss Steffanie,” as she is affectionately called by her preschoolers, knows how important a Head Start experience is in the school readiness journey.

She herself was enrolled in the program as a child and has been a lifelong learner ever since. Today, she is a preschool teacher for HCS Head Start, and is helping to make sure young children have their own Head Start in school and in life.

Steffanie has decided that a career in early childhood is the right fit for her and she is currently earning her Bachelor’s Degree in Early Childhood Education.

Miss Steffanie is proof that a little Head Start goes a long way!

William’s mom enrolled him in Head Start 15 years ago while she was in school.  His preschool experience prepared him for a successful career in education.

William excelled in school and was accepted at Wesleyan University in Connecticut.  In 2019 he  graduated with his Bachelor’s Degree.

HCS wishes William all the best in his future endeavors. He is also proof that a little Head Start goes a long way.

Milagros was a Head Start parent (and former Head Start student), and as a parent she was on both our Policy Council and Board of Directors.
She says:

“My name is Milagros and I was raised in a small town of Puerto Rico, called Isabela.

Head Start has changed my life in many different ways! My mom was a single mom of 4, with a 5th grade education level. She did the best she could to teach us, until she heard people talking about the Head Start programs, so she decided to see if we qualified and we did.

And our journey started there, I was a Head Start kid and it gave me a big advantage in the education I was getting, I learned the essentials that I needed to move forward in life.

My mother learned a lot by volunteering at Head Start. She got more involved in our education and the staff worked side by side with her. If she didn’t understand something they were happy to help and she never felt alone or lost. All these beautiful things happened because of the opportunity that Head Start programs gave us.

Now I’m a mother of two girls and a proud Head Start parent. I have learned so much about the program and all its benefits. It has help me and my husband become better people and better parents. I’ve worked with Head Start staff side by side, learning and advocating on behalf of our kids. I don’t know where we would be without Head Start, they are our family. Thank you very much.”

Cassondra is a past Head Start parent and is currently an Infant/Toddler Teacher with HCS Head Start. Her own children are also enrolled in HCS Head Start.

She says: “Head start changed my life because it allowed me to pursue a fulfilling career working with children and their families.  My experiences with Head Start are unique, and I feel fortunate to be able to share daily interactions with a group of wonderful women and men.  And, what puts a smile on my face is having my children enrolled in Head Start.  Every time they come home, they have a story about what they learned and how much they love their teachers.  Go Head Start!!!”

Velada and A’Shaela
by Nicole Blais, Director of Family & Community Engagement
Educators often wonder what happens to the children they have in their preschool classrooms. Did they graduate High School? Did they stay in the community? What did they grow up to be?  I had the opportunity to check in with a past Early Head Start alumnae and her mother and it was a heartwarming reunion.

More than 18 years ago, Velada (shown seated above), mother of two, enrolled her youngest, nine month old A’Shaela, in our Early Head Start program at the Mason Square Head Start center in Springfield. A recommendation from a visiting nurse, Velada intentionally put her baby on the path of school readiness and A’Shaela has been reaping the benefits of that decision ever since.  Once immersed in the program, Velada was elected to the parent and community led Policy Council-an advisory group that helps drive quality programming at Head Start.  She left a lasting impression as a thoughtful and devoted parent.

From a close-knit family, A’Shaela has been enveloped by a circle of support that includes her mom, sister, grandparents and friends. She had an incredible high school career graduating from Williston Northampton School with a 3.8 GPA.  There she created connections for herself that aided in her successful transition to Elon University otherwise known as a “baby ivy” in North Carolina.

A’Shaela is laser focused with a clear vision for herself and her future.  Adjusting to college life, she has pushed herself and at times out of her comfort zone to obtain new experiences. In addition to her schoolwork, she held 2 jobs on campus and pledged Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority — of which her mother is also a member.

A’Shaela has set her sights on studying abroad in France, and when she graduates hopes to start a career at Price Water Coopers, only the second largest professional services firm in the world; a very determined young woman and I am pretty sure she gets it from her mama, a determined woman in her own right.

Advice they would give students and parents; Velada offers this to fellow parents, “create a village for your children, and give them opportunities” and A’Shaela wants children to know, “dream big, stay focused, don’t be afraid to leave and do not be afraid to shine”.

I am quite certain this will not be the last time we hear from this dynamic duo. Congratulations A’Shaela on all of your accomplishments and keep on shining.

by Nicole Blais, Director of Community Engagement