Ron Herndon is an outstanding advocate for Head Start. His advocacy has even been commemorated by having one of four NHSA Awards named after him! We were honored to have him as our keynote speaker at our Fall Conference. He is an engaging speaker with a deep understanding of how systemic racism has impacted education in the US.
We are grateful to have such a compelling advocate as a member!
Last night I was awakened by an alarm about an hour after going to bed. No, this was not an alarm clock. This was my carbon monoxide detector.
Carbon monoxide (CO) is an invisible odorless gas that is produced when things burn. I had a fire in my fireplace last night. I had slowly closed the flue as the fire went out and went to bed once I thought the fire had died (that’s an actual photo of the offending ash pile soon after the alarm went off). Without my carbon monoxide detector, I might not have woken up this morning.
I’m thankful that I knew that my fireplace was a source of CO and that I had checked the smoke alarms in my apartment and discovered that they only detected smoke, not CO and smoke. I had purchased and installed a CO alarm.
While I was awake last night waiting for my home to air out and be safe to occupy I did a little research. I discovered that rental properties in Oregon with CO sources have been required to have CO alarms since 2011. My unit did not have the legally required CO alarm installed by the owner. I now know about the law and that it’s my duty to inform the property manager that there was no CO detector in my apartment. It makes me wonder how many other units don’t have the required alarm.
I hope that my speaking up will help to save the lives of others. Be safe. Make sure you have a CO alarm if you have sources of carbon monoxide. Don’t trust that your landlord has installed them.
Sabrina Ersland was 24 years old and facing a prison sentence. Incarceration wasn’t new to her. She had grown up in a dysfunctional home and spent much of her childhood, adolescence and young adult life in and out of foster homes, group homes, juvenile detention, and jail. But this time was different. She was pregnant.
Incarceration had become a pattern in her life offering her predictability and a certain amount of stability. But with a child on the way, she was determined to make a change. She desperately wanted to provide for her daughter what she never had as a child. “I didn’t know how, but I was determined to give this child the life that I never got.”
By the time she was sentenced, she had already had her baby. She woke up in her cell at Coffee Creek Correctional Facility and thought about her five month old daughter determined to make a change. But she didn’t even know what responsible, positive parenting looked like. And she didn’t know what she could do from the confines of her cell.
She soon received information about Community Action’s Coffee Creek Early Head Start program. This early childhood education program is housed at the correctional facility and provides an opportunity for incarcerated moms to bond with their children, learn about parenting and child development, and helps them transition into the role of parenting upon their release. The children come twice a week to the early childhood classroom located at the correctional facility.
Sabrina got into the program when her daughter was 8 months old. The Community Action staff were able to help her understand what she was yearning to know – how to be a good parent. She soaked it all up and came away with a newfound set of parenting skills.
She learned about the educational importance of play and getting down on the floor to meet her daughter at her level. She learned about the importance of talking to her baby even before she was able to have a conversation. She learned about the different stages of child development and what to expect. Most importantly, she was given time to bond with her child so that the transition upon her release would be a smoother one.
As Sabrina approached her release date she was excited about reuniting with her daughter and had idyllic dreams about how those first few moments would go. Fortunately, the Community Action staff helped prepare her. The staff gently urged her to consider things from her daughter’s perspective. Sabrina wasn’t part of her daughter’s daily home life and routine. Her daughter only knew her in the classroom environment. They prepared Sabrina for possible scenarios including rejection.
When the day finally came and Sabrina arrived at home full of anticipation, her daughter looked at her, turned around, and ran away. At this moment, the rejection hit Sabrina hard. But then she realized that she was prepared to handle this. Because of the program, she had all the tools she needed. Remembering the importance of meeting her toddler at her level, she immediately sat down on the floor. She worked to normalize the situation by chatting with the other adults in the room. And most importantly, she waited for her daughter to come to her.
While sitting and waiting, gratitude swept over her. She thought about all the parents who don’t get the opportunity to learn what she learned, and she decided that she wanted to do something about it. She wanted to spend her life preventing other children from going through what she went through as a child. She committed herself to this cause and every education and career decision since then has been motivated by this goal.
Immediately after her release, she enrolled in PCC and earned an associate’s degree. She then earned a bachelor’s degree in sociology from Portland State University where she researched how to strengthen Head Start programs. She focused her research on Albina Head Start where both of her children were attending. She recently earned her master’s degree from PSU where her research focused on the lack of parenting support for incarcerated fathers.
She is also now a proud member of the staff of Albina Head Start. It wasn’t easy entering the field of early childhood education with a criminal history. But she went through an intensive screening process to get cleared and is happy to be working for the program that changed the trajectory of her own life.
She reflects on all she has done and says, “It is hard work, but you are changing outcomes of children’s lives. If I can help at least one family not go through what I went through as a child – that’s huge for me.”
Albina Head Start has been serving low-income children and their families throughout Portland for over five decades. Currently, 834 children participate in HS and EHS center-based services and 251 children, families and prenatal mothers participate in home-based services.
Throughout the years, like many head start programs, we have been proud of the many accomplishments of our children, parents, and staff. Yet, we feel that our innovative and creative approaches to learning and offering experiences that prepare our children for the future are key ingredients of our longevity and success. Our Mandarin language program is a perfect example that embodies our mission: ‘To prepare children and families to succeed locally, regionally, nationally and internationally.’
Introducing a foreign language concept was first conceived in 2012 when Ron Herndon sought partnerships to offer this opportunity to Head Start children. A partnership was formed with Confucius Institute that would eventually lead to native Chinese students obtaining VISA’s to work as teacher assistants in our program.
Fast forward, five years later:
Our head start and EHS children are communicating in Mandarin;
A partnership with PPS has led to Mandarin kindergarten through fourth-grade classes in an inner NE Portland elementary school;
A delegation of Albina staff was invited to visit China!
Innovative–we are the only Head Start program in the nation to offer this foreign language to our children and, has impacted a school district to reexamine their concept of language acquisition and equity.
The horizon looks bright:
We are working towards the goal of all of our Head Start children being exposed to the Mandarin language.
We are looking forward to working with our PPS partners to continue to expand Mandarin classrooms through high school.
We are looking forward to the cultural and physical exchange of learning opportunities between Albina HS and Guiyang Preschool Education College.
I graduate with Honors from SOU this Saturday (June 15, 2017). I will have earned my bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education with an endorsement in Multiple Subjects as well as a teaching license. I hope to find an elementary teaching position in Southern Oregon and begin a fresh start with my little family. Thank you for the support OHSA has given me both financially for my own schooling as well as excellent preschool for myself as a youngster and my son Silas. My daughter will begin her Head Start journey this fall.
When we walked up to these doors one day,
To a building called Head Start.
I didn’t know what lied ahead, as our world was just torn apart,
At this time in our lives, we were in need of support, as I finally took a stand,
And as we walked through those doors, to my surprise,
we were welcomed with open hands,
The staff showed us love and kindness, as well as opened my eyes to see,
that there are wonderful, compassionate people who were willing to stick by me,
They believed in me through struggling times, and hugged me when I cried,
They laughed with me through good times, and recognized how hard I tried,
Most of all, I will never forget when the day is done,
All of the love, support, and encouragement that you have bestowed on my son,
As we walk out the door, I am grateful to say; we don’t feel alone anymore,
For I have found a family that I have grown to love, and people who I adore,
Even though we’ll shut the door behind us, you have a permanent place in our hearts,
That all started with going through the doors one day,
of a building called Head Start.
Check out these great Head Start Advocates! Please share your photos and videos with us by emailing them, or a link to them, to email@example.com. Tweets and Instagram posts with #FundHeadStart should automatically appear below.
Photos and Videos
The March 30 meeting of the House Committee On Early Childhood and Family Supports had some great content in regards to Head Start! HB 3106-3 passed out of committee and Dr Pakulak from the University of Oregon testified about the brain research he’s been conducting in partnership with Head Start of Lane County.
Check out the testimony on Head Start to the House Committee On Early Childhood and Family Supports. The testimony starts at the last gray dot (around 1:10).