Many families come to a Community Action Agency’s Head Start program looking for help for their children, but in the process begin to see the resources available for their entire family. Following is the story of one such person at the Community Action Agency of Columbiana County:

While attending college in the spring of 2005 I met a wonderful lady named Joyce, and she informed me of a preschool program that I might want to put my daughter in. She asked me if I had ever heard about Head Start and I told her no. Joyce then informed me of all the benefits that Head Start offers. My daughter Elycia was able to start on her third birthday and she thought it was the greatest thing ever. 

Elycia’s first year in Head Start I was not involved in anything; not even as a volunteer in the classroom. I worked too much and could not make it in. We kept up with our “homework”, but that was all I did. Elycia’s second year was much different. I was the President of the parent meeting and then I joined the Policy Council as an alternate.  This let me learn more about the program and how it worked. I volunteered in the classroom a lot more. At this point I was not working and I heard Head Start was hiring for bus escorts. I would be working a couple hours during the day and able to be home with Elycia every night and every weekend. I had to step down from Policy Council to take the position and I started in the fall of 2008. That has been the best choice I have made since becoming a mom. I was super excited. I did not know that I would enjoy working with children as much as I did—I still do!

Since starting to work for Head Start, I feel like I have worn many hats. I have been able to work in different departments and learn more about the Community Action Agency. I feel that is a huge plus for me. I have learned the different programs that we have and how we help families. I also have been able to take the required courses to get my CDA (Child Development Associate – a nationally recognized credential for working with children). I am currently waiting to take my test. 

I have been sitting on my associates degree since the winter of 2005. I was unsure of how I was going to use it since my degree is in Criminal Justice. I found how I can use my degree. I applied for a Family Advocate position. I saw this as a great opportunity to help families and use my degree.  I love being able to take my experiences as a single mom and connect with other families. 

I was given a big surprise this past year—I was offered the position of assistant teacher and family advocate for the upcoming year. I am so blessed to be working with a company that sees how much I have grown and how much I love my job. Since taking on these two positions, I have decided to go back to school to get my bachelors in Early Childhood. I will graduate in the summer of 2015. Once I complete this degree I will be able to be a lead teacher and help children get a great start to the beginning of their schooling journey.

I am very thankful that I listened to Joyce so many years ago. I believe Head Start is one reason that my daughter is so smart. During her second year she took on the roll of being the little teacher. She took the first year students under her wing. Elycia is now in the 6th grade and extremely smart. She is an A and B student. Since she has been able to keep her grades up she is going to be going on the Honor and Builders Club trip to Washington DC this May. 

I have also had two other children come through the program. I was able to get services for my son who requires an IEP (Individualized Education Plan – developed to serve as a guideline for educational and physical developments for children with special needs). Staff members at Head Start walked me through the steps and made sure the entire family understood his rights. Now that he is in kindergarten I am able to take the knowledge that I have gained from Head Start and make sure he received the service he needs to be as productive as he can.

This story demonstrates how Community Action Agency programs and services provide hope to children, parents, families, and entire communities. It is the desire of Community Action to provide hope to families and resources to encourage them to pursue their dreams.

For more information about Community Action programs in your area, visit www.oacaa.org. Note, not all Community Action Agencies offer these programs.

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