Leanne Winchester

leanne winchester"I know that my Head Start experience led to my academic success. My success became my mother's joy." – Leanne Winchester, Head Start graduate and currently a Head Start administrator, Tyngsboro, MA

I was born in South Boston, Massachusetts in 1962. I was the fourth child of an Irish Catholic family and poverty was our way of life. We lived in a small public housing unit in the B Street projects. We stood in long food lines to receive our daily meals. My early years were wrought with illness. I was born two months premature and diagnosed with meningitis. My father, an unemployed war veteran, was overwhelmed by being unable to provide for his family. He soon left home.

Unskilled and uneducated, my mother relied heavily on state and federal resources to provide for us. I was barely 3 years old when Sergeant Shriver's team came to our neighborhood to discuss a new education program for poor families like ours.

My mother attended each Head Start meeting and became a parent advocate. In the summer of 1965, I was one of the first children enrolled in the new program. Amazingly, I still remember the church building where we met; I still hear my teacher's voice as she read to us. Meal times were memorable because, just like in my big family, we all sat together. And, I loved the playground swings.

My success became my mother's joy. My siblings were too old to attend Head Start, unfortunately, and I know that my Head Start experience led to my academic success. I not only graduated high school, I became the first in my family to graduate from college – with honors!

Today, I am a registered nurse and certified in nutrition. I worked as a Head Start health manager and I still provide technical assistance to programs. I love to help Head Start children and families. I know the program will open doors for them and give them awesome opportunities. As my life shows, Head Start works!