Success was a long shot based on my family's social and economic status—a family of seven in Ridgeland, South Carolina. My older brother and I attended a community Head Start program in Robertville, a rural town in Jasper County. When I first began in Head Start, I had trouble identifying numbers, letters, and could not spell my name (although you should note that it has ten letters!). Today, I am the first generation removed from poverty.
Along with determination and faith, I credit the opportunity to attend Head Start and receive the necessary supports and interventions with changing my trajectory. By the time I moved on to kindergarten, I was thriving academically. My middle school identified me for the gifted and talented program, and I graduated fourth in my high school class.
After graduating from Winthrop University with honors, I became an educator to positively impact children's lives. My experience in Head Start continues to shape my approach to learning and building educational communities. Over the last 25 years, I have been a teacher and school principal. I now serve as the deputy superintendent of the fifth-largest school district in South Carolina.
When I see students, I see myself as a little girl, growing, learning, and creating lifelong memories. I coach principals and teachers to realize every child has a gift and their impact as educators can go beyond one student. As educators, what we do has the potential to change a family's mindset toward education. How we engage students and their families can transition a family from asking, "What will you do after high school?" to "Where will you go to college?"
That's what Head Start did for me. I am truly amazed that the single act of enrolling in Head Start changed my life and now my children are second-generation beneficiaries of my Head Start experience. — Dr. Marshalynn Franklin