NeighborImpact Head Start serves Crook and Deschutes Counties with 24 classrooms in 8 different Head Start Centers serving 451 children & families. We are located in LaPine, Bend, Redmond and Prineville. We provide high-quality preschool education and connect families to health, nutritional and local resources. A project NeighborImpact Head Start along with NeighborImpact HomeSource has been working on is to develop a comprehensive financial capability program for Head Start families. Our goal is to educate Head Start staff on basic financial concepts & triage (using “Your Money, Your Goals” curriculum), in addition to providing wrap-around financial education and counseling for Head Start families. The financial capabilities program includes financial fitness classes, (including understanding credit, basic budgeting, banking & insurance, and investing) free individualized financial counseling, free tax preparation, and IDA Program-Individual Development Accounts (match savings plan).
One of the most pressing issues facing our Head Start families is a lack of emergency savings and planning for emergencies. While this is an overwhelming thought for many low-income families, comprehensive support including education, coaching, and goal setting with trained coaches, supported by educated Head Start advocates, give our families the best chance to develop habits and strategies to better weather emergencies. Another pressing issue for our families is a lack of knowledge on budgeting and methods to implement effective budgeting techniques. Many of our families currently live paycheck to paycheck, and may not utilize traditional banking products. The wrap around financial capability services for Head Start families are helping prepare families for significant positive outcomes. The feedback has been positive with many taking advantage of free tax preparation and the credit classes.
Harney County made national news in January, but it was not for the great work that our county is doing. As we are writing this article, the militia still occupies the Malheur Wildlife Refuge and lives in our normally quiet community are disrupted, and people are on edge. We are all hoping for a quick and peaceful resolution.
Head Start of Harney County serves the entire county. Harney County is the largest county in Oregon, covering 10,000 square miles. There are more cattle in the county than people. We are in the high desert, so it is very difficult to grow any crop other than hay. Ranching is the largest industry.
Head Start of Harney County began in 1993 with 60 OPK Head Start slots. In 2000, 20 more slots were added by Federal Head Start. Sixty slots are served through a center-based option. The home-based option provides services to 20 children that live on isolated ranches in the rest of the county. Our home visitors travel and average of 120 miles each day on gravel roads. Because ranching families are so isolated, they look forward to their weekly home visits and the socialization time.
In 2001, Harney ESD worked with Community Development Grant and several foundations to raise money to build a new Early Childhood Center. It took seven years to accomplish the goal and today most of the early childhood services for Harney County are housed in one center. Families have only one place to go to get connected to preschool services, special education services or home visiting services.
The Early Childhood Center always welcomes visitors and invites you to explore the high desert with its lakes, great camping sites, and friendly people and then you can see our center.
This is a great blog post shared by a couple of Early Head Start Teachers. Please click the link below to read their inspiring story.
It’s 8:15 a.m. and our classrooms are half-full of students—one- and two-year-olds are eating breakfast as our co-teacher chats with them at the table. Parents come in and out of rooms, assisting with welcoming routines and offering, sometimes tearful, goodbyes.
Our learning for the day has already begun: hand washing; serving food out of family-style dishes; cleaning up the inevitable milk spills; and carefully using utensils. These tasks are all building the health, oral language, and fine motor skills vital as a foundation for our day.
It is my pleasure to speak about the experiences I have had with Southern Oregon Head Start (SOHS). Over the last four years my children have been involved at SOHS, involvement has included classes and educational resources for my children, as well as ample opportunities for myself, not only to be involved in the educational development of my children, but also furthering myself through self-improvement and community involvement. During my time with SOHS I was humbled to be the recipient of a scholarship through Early Head Start for the sum of $2,000. Not only did this scholarship help me pay for my classes, it was granted at a time that enabled me to graduate with my Bachelors of Biomedical Sciences on time. Currently I am a graduate student at John’s Hopkins University studying Biotechnology. I have also been accepted to medical school at St. George’s University and will begin my journey to becoming a physician in the West Indies, Grenada, August 2016.
The services and resources provided by SOHS not only have helped me to fulfil my dream of practicing medicine, they have also been cornerstone to my children’s success in public school. My daughter, who is currently in first grade, is a top reader in her class. She is one of five students involved in a reading group that is assigned more difficult readings, in addition to group reading sessions that entail readings from books more advanced that the rest of the class. I directly correlate her success with reading to the support she received at SOHS, as well as the encouragement that I received as well. My son, who was attending speech therapy, quickly graduated the speech program after his first year of Early Head Start. Again, I attribute his rapid success to the support of his teachers and class staff, as well as the frequent and useful communication I received from them during this time.
During my time at SOHS I was also involved in the SOHS Policy Council as well as parent meetings, and have spent many hours volunteering for class activities and the like. The allowance of being directly involved with my child’s education, has enabled me to have an “inside” view to my child’s strengths and weaknesses, in terms of attending public school next year.
The benefits provided to the community, including my family, on behalf of SOHS have had a profound effect on not only child development, encouragement and love, but have also retained the same encouragement through adulthood. It is my hope that the SOHS program will grow, and continue to have the impact on the lives of others the way it did for my family and I.
I always say that I wish I had been a Head Start child. Being raised in poverty in the late 60’s and 70’s, I truly grew up in abject poverty. My family lived with constant hunger and food insecurity, utilities often turned off, and my father was a single parent who had difficulty holding down a job because of addictions to alcohol and drugs. There were sometimes days that my two younger siblings and I were left alone with no adult, and no one to care for us or feed us. As I look back, I can see how the instability and these early life challenges have impacted me my whole life, even today.
But now, I am a Head Start Parent.
My Head Start story began shortly after my husband and I decided to get married and blend our families. We knew we didn’t want to fail. We didn’t want to fail each other or our children. Our love for each other and for our children was strong, but he and I had both grown up in poverty, toxic stress, and with rampant neglect and abuse. We both had parents who were addicted to alcohol and drugs, but thankfully we had both chosen to steer clear of those things. We were both divorced from former abusive spouses, and we knew the statistical odds of us staying married and raising our children to be happy, productive and whole people were slim at best. We also knew we had no parental support from our own families, and that meant no multigenerational knowledge of child rearing, or even simple life skills, were handed down to us. We were truly on our own to seek out and ask for parenting advice. Stephan and I are resourceful people, but when you don’t know that you need to seek out advice, or even the right questions to ask, life issues become overwhelming, bad parenting practices are the only parenting practices you know, and hopelessness starts to creep in. So, we went along doing the best we could parenting our children, making the best decisions we could at the time.
Then we found Head Start.
The first time I learned about Head Start, I had only been living in Oregon for less than 6 months. My husband Stephan was on an Operation with his Army National Guard Unit to Japan, and I was at home pregnant, with our newly blended family of five children. The two youngest children, 3 and just turned 4, both had issues that were impacting their growth and development on physical, cognitive, and social-emotional levels. One with cognitive learning delays since a very preterm birth, and the other diagnosed with attachment disorder, and Asperger’s. They were a handful, I had no experience or education on how to care for their special needs, and didn’t know enough then to realize I needed to reach out for help, and I was exhausted. When one of my elementary school children brought home a flyer about Head Start, I was excited to apply. I was aware of the benefits a Pre-Kindergarten education would hold for my two youngest, I was unaware of the amazing effects and education it would hold for me, and our whole family as well.
Both children started in the Fall of 2006. I was amazed at all the things Head Start was providing. My children were engaged and learning. They were happy and thriving, being fed healthy, fresh cooked food. Learning autonomy by serving themselves food, and brushing their teeth every day at school. My children’s teacher would tell me all about their day, what books they liked, activities they were interested in, and there were always hugs for me and my children! Our Family Advocate was always there for us to lean on for guidance, advice, and just ask questions of if we felt unsure. She discussed our home-life with us, and asked us what we wanted to accomplish in life, and as parents. Stephan and I were able to take a series of childhood brain development courses, and parenting courses, and learned different methods to communicate and teach all of our children based on what ages and developmental stages they were at. By educating Steve and me in tandem with educating our children, our home was made a calmer and more stable place. Our family became more stable, loving and attached. Stephan and I were empowered with the knowledge to make informed decisions and choices for our children from everything from better nutrition and health care decisions, to the somewhat invisible issues such as the importance of reading to your child each day, and the positive impact that regular, on-time attendance has all the way through high school. The knowledge we gained, and the supports we were given helped us all as a family more than I could ever express. We felt loved, accepted, encouraged and cared for. There was always a smile, a shoulder, a hug, and a warm cup of something, or a hot meal with my child. Head Start became our family.
When our youngest three children began at Head Start, I found out about the opportunity to serve my Head Start center, agency, and my community by sitting on the Policy Council. I dove right in and started to learn about everything Head Start and Early Childhood Education. I served for three years on the Policy Council, and the growth I have seen in myself has been nothing short of amazing. I have learned not only how to be a knowledgeable, resourceful and empowered parent, but I also learned how to mentor my peers to be the same.
When I sat on the Policy Council, I ran for and was elected as the Chairperson and the State Representative. I ran meetings, was involved in executive and policy making decisions for our agency for budgeting, curriculum, staffing, enrollment, and much more. I was involved with advocating for the importance of early childhood education on a local, state and federal level, and spoke regularly with State and Federal elected officials, and with the media too. The one thing I enjoyed the most; however, was pairing with another Head Start parent and planning, fundraising, and hosting a Parent Leadership Training for the Policy Council parents of our agency. To see the growth and connection that these parents made during just a short opportunity to connect and learn alongside their peers was an experience I will never forget, and never take for granted.
Through the leadership opportunities I was given, and the mentoring I received at Head Start, I am now able to give back to my whole community in so many amazing ways. I now sit on the Board of Directors for Southern Oregon Head Start, the Oregon Head Start Association, and the National Head Start Association. In my local community, I sit on the Executive Council and the Parent Advisory Council in the creation of the Southern Oregon Early Learning Systems Hub. I am also actively involved in the creation and application of a private grant that has been awarded to our area to enhance the knowledge and connection of parents in all income brackets. My hope is that we can create a culture shift in our area that will not only provide, education, support, information and knowledge for all parents to connect but that they also will be knowledgeable and empowered enough to then be able to mentor and support one another, as I have learned to do. I have been provided opportunities to travel to many places within the United States to attend early childhood education conferences, and meet other Head Start parents. I have learned about the incredible impact that Head Start is making in people’s lives throughout the nation.
I believe I am making a difference in the future for our families and children in not only my community but my State, Region and also nationally. I see myself as a conduit of connection for other parents and the communities they live in. I have truly been empowered by the love, caring and education offered to me while my children were offered their “Head Start” at their education and life.
I always say that I gained strong leadership skills while serving in the United States Marine Corps, but I didn’t really know how to love or be loved until I was a Head Start Parent.
I now feel there is nothing I cannot set my sights on, no dream too large to try for, and have been empowered with the ability to master my own life. None of this would have been possible without Head Start. The path of coming generations of not only my family has been altered, but for every family I mentor and touch, all because the teachers and staff of Head Start believed in me.
I am intelligent, I am strong, I am a leader, I am a mentor, I am empowered, I am capable, I am helpful and I am grateful.
Recent celebrations in honor of the Head Start Programs’ 50 year anniversary have those of us at Malheur County Child Development Center (MCCDC) reliving past successes and contemplating the big changes that are most certainly headed our way in the future.
Though our grantee is younger than the Head Start program itself, 33 years is nothing to shake a stick at. Since its inception in 1982 our program has served close to 6,000 preschool aged children and will likely begin serving infants and toddlers in the near future.
MCCDC’s longevity can be attributed to its dedicated staff (our Executive Director has worked for the program for 30 years) and the small town mentality lent by our rural setting and close-knit communities. These qualities afford unique relationships with the families we serve and our community partners.
MCCDC is particularly proud of our successful Father Involvement program. Our centers hold Father’s Group activities 2-3 times per year, and often see an exciting 80% father attendance rate! It is no trouble attributing this accomplishment to the skill and caring of our amazing staff, which builds trust and enhances our relationships with families.
Additionally, we have exceptional collaboration with community partners, which allows for exciting opportunities and benefits. This year MCCDC is able to provide families with Parenting Now curriculum classes in partnership with local representatives of the Oregon Parent Education Collaborative.
MCCDC also regularly partners with public school staff and students for senior projects, job shadowing, and literacy. One high school senior planted a community garden on some spare MCCDC land while another provided Head Start families with fingerprinting and safety ID cards for their children. One local school even shares time and library books, hosting and reading to MCCDC children!
Our rural location often presents us with challenging obstacles and leaves us feeling isolated from the rest of the state. However, those circumstances also provide for the close-knit relationships with families and our community partners that have enhanced our services and contributed to our success. We will continue to move forward and adapt in order to continue serving the needs in our community and to afford these children the head start they truly deserve.
My name is Crystal Hilton. My daughter began at Head Start this year, and it has been an amazing experience. From the week she began I have been informed of leadership opportunities. We have a parent committee that I am now the chair person of, and the policy council I was elected to. To be a part of the decision making process is so important to me. I can’t express.
Parents know what they want for their children, we are our children’s best advocates. My son is 13 and I’ve been involved in his schools as well, but I’ve not found public education as open to parent leadership as Head Start. Which I find a shame.
South Coast Head Start challenged their sites to take part in the Global Cardboard Challenge as part of NHSA’s 50th Anniversary. The children, families and staff at our Charleston site worked throughout the fall to not only celebrate Head Start, but their local community that gives so much back to the program! Teacher, April Brunton-Rhodes, summarized the project:
“We wanted to take part in the cardboard challenge to help celebrate Head Start’s 50 years. Both Charleston classes decided to work together to create a replica of our school’s community of Charleston.
“We started rearranging our classroom so we had plenty of room for the children to work. We had an assortment of cardboard boxes for the children to create what their imagination could come up with. After one week of independent study, the classes decided to build our Charleston community.
“The children were involved in every aspect of developing ‘our community’. During circle time and bus rides we discussed what we needed to recreate the community by our school. We incorporated the Box and Building studies from Creative Curriculum into our project, addressing all 10 domains from the Head Start framework.”
“During the cardboard challenge we visited a few of the community businesses that the children replicated. The Crab Shack is one of the businesses that we visited and we presented them a framed picture of their building that the children created. They are now proudly displaying it on their wall!”