Daughter’s Head Start Experience Allows Mom to Get Jump Start on Dream
When Jackie Godinez searched for a place to care for her daughter, she turned to the Campagna Center Head Start Program in Alexandria, Virginia, to provide a safe place that would give her 4-year-old Ashley a good start in education.
Little did Jackie know that her own education would also get a jump start.
“They have parent workshops every month,” said the young mother of two. “These workshops provide new information that every parent should know, like going to a library and reading to children at a young age to help with development. One day a family services counselor asked me, what are my goals? What do I want to do with my future?”
Jackie always dreamed of becoming a teacher, instructing kindergarten and first grade classes. Her dream started to become a reality when Head Start center staff recommended a local nonprofit education program.
“The counselor referred me to Hopkins House, a center where adults can take early education classes that transfer to the local community college. I started last year. This fall I begin classes at the community college,” said Jackie.
Referrals to continuing education and job training are just some of the resources available to parents when they enroll their children in Head Start.
“We provide any number of referrals to our families,” said Joy Trejo, senior director of Early Childhood Programs and Family Services at Campagna Center. “Basic resources such as food, shelter, utilities and transportation to resources for parents who need parent education, information on job training, ESL classes, physical, mental health and dental referrals, child support, immigration, domestic violence prevention. Whatever a parent requests and needs, we do the best we can to find them a viable referral.”
Jackie is very happy with her new opportunity and her daughter’s progress a year later. Ashley graduated from her Head Start center in the spring and will enter into kindergarten this fall. Jackie has now enlisted her youngest, Jeremy, at Campagna Center’s Early Head Start Program.
“Ashley knows her alphabet, shapes and colors,” said the proud mom. “In kindergarten, they will give her a standardized test to see what level she is at. And because of what Head Start taught her, she won’t be so far behind. She will probably be at the level she’s supposed to be — or more advanced.”
Another skill Ashley picked up at Head Start was helping, said Jackie, who is raising her children in a bilingual household.
“Head Start doesn’t tell a child not to speak Spanish,” said Jackie, whose parents came from El Salvador. “For many people in this area, Spanish is their first language. Ashley often helped translate for her classmates.”
Over the years Head Start has undertaken many activities to promote culturally and linguistically responsive programs for children and their families.
“Our program endeavors to employ staff who speak Spanish and place them in the classrooms and sites that have the largest number of Spanish-speaking children and families,” said Trejo. “We label our furniture in multiple languages, including Spanish, and we have books and games in Spanish and other languages that our children speak. When Spanish-speaking children first transition into the classroom that do not speak any English, first, we try to place them in a classroom where there is a Spanish speaking staff member, and we make sure that we have spent time with the parent and child in a home visit to learn about the child’s likes/dislikes, special needs, preferences so that we can make the child feel at home in the classroom.”
Trejo added that most of the materials given to parents (handbooks, flyers, notices and letters) are translated into several languages so that they can feel confident that they are getting all the same information that other parents who speak English are getting, and also, actively participate in their child’s day-to-day life in the classroom.
“I would definitely recommend Head Start to another family,” said Jackie. “I don’t think people really know about Head Start and how it works. Yes there is a waiting list, but if you qualify your child will be admitted. Don’t hesitate in trying.”