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“Head Start Is Me!” by Brooke Barard

Excerpt from remarks made at NHSA’s Parent Conference in New Orleans on December 9, 2014:

“Saying that I am a Head Start kid is like saying I am a High School graduate or that I am currently enrolled at a university. It is a point of pride for me, an accomplishment that I am extremely proud of.  The Head Start family laid the foundation of my many accomplishments.

"My name is Brooke Barard, I am 20 years old and I am an author, the co-founder of The One In Me, a student at Kennesaw State University and a Head Start alum from the New Orleans Total Community Action class of 1998.

"My life has been an interesting one from the day I was born. When I was two and a half months old my father was tragically taken from me. From what I know and hear he was a very brave, strong, loving and giving man and now when people see me they see him. Although my father passed away, I was very well taken care of – I was raised here in New Orleans, Louisiana by my mother Trace Godoy and my grandmother Grace Brooks.

"Although my mother had just lost my dad, she did not let that slow her down – she used that to be stronger, to know that now she had to do more to provide a better future for me. My mother is a single parent but she did not raise me alone, she had the help of my grandmother who is now my best friend. My mom and grandmother are both sticklers when it comes to reading and education. People always told them that I was going to be a very smart young lady. While my mom was finishing school both she and my grandmother thought it would be a great idea to get me into a program where I could start to engage in learning and get to know more kids. Head Start would be that place.

"I started Head Start in 1996 and graduated in 1998. I remember well my years in the program.  I was introduced to so many new things. Head Start was the place where I learned my ABC’s, 123’s, colors, shapes, to read, to write my name, to meet new friends and to create great memories. I remember the very first day I started Head Start. I was so used to being with my family all day that I was not sure if I was ready to be around a group of new kids and teachers. 

"How could I have known then that Head Start would have such an important impact on my life?The teachers not only taught me the fundamentals of education but they prepared me for a life beyond the stars. Head Start was the beginning stage of my educational journey.That’s probably why still to this day I remember each and every one of my teachers. I know now that hey taught us just what we needed to know and challenged us just enough to prepare us for success at a very early age.

"My family and I strongly believe that it is because of my high quality Head Start program that I went on to excel academically.Learning was a fun and creative experience at Head Start and that developed in me a love of learning.I am positive that this prepared me for success; I went on to be accepted into private schools that were known for their high academic standards.

"When I was growing up my mom and I had a little saying, it was something she would tell me every day: ‘Brooke, what does brilliant mean?’   ‘Smart.’ I would say.  ‘What does smart mean?’  ‘Brilliant,’ I would say.  ‘What does that equal?’  ‘Me!’ I would say.  It was my Head Start program that reinforced this for for me each and every day!’"

Ms. Barard is the author of two children’s books. Her most recent book available for purchase is Head Start is Me!  For every Head Start is Me! book sold between now and April 2, 2015, Ms. Barard will donate a dollar back to NHSA’s Dollar per Child fundraising campaign!