According to her mother, little Marina Fradera often cried when her mother would pick her up from the Goddard Riverside Head Start center in New York City, because she didn't know if she would be able to go back to the special place she loved so very much.
In addition to early learning experiences, Marina's Head Start program was also able to help her parents navigate the larger educational system in order to find schools that provided challenging programs for high achieving students like Marina.
Marina remembers a few other defining aspects of her Head Start program. "On a social level, I think it was hugely impactful that one of my head start teachers was a man. As a child I was afraid of men who weren't related to me. Having a male teacher taught me at an early age that I didn't need to assume the worst about people before meeting them, that you need to get to know people before forming an opinion of them."
"My schooling after Head Start was entirely removed from my neighborhood and culture,” she said. “It implicitly taught me that to be successful I needed to remove myself from my home environment. But Head Start confirmed the opposite; high quality, community-based learning could and was happening in the neighborhood I grew up in! It taught me to love and feel safe in that place, a place many of my peers might have feared or called ‘the ghetto.’ I think this belief grounded me and helped me cope with a high school experience that was, at times, culturally traumatizing."
Today, after graduating magna cum laude from Bryn Mawr College, working with Teach for America to teach high school special education, and obtaining a Master’s degree in Education from Chestnut Hill College in secondary education, Marina works at the Philadelphia Education Fund helping schools build systems to prevent at-risk youth from dropping out and get them back on track.
Addressing issues of educational inequality is this alum's passion, a passion she believes was cultivated 24 years ago in the Goddard Riverside Head Start classroom. "Thank you Head Start!"
In honor of Head Start’s 50th Anniversary and Head Start Awareness Month, the National Head Start Association will be highlighting Head Start alumni each weekday in October. We will begin the month with Head Start’s youngest learners and conclude the celebration with the Head Start Class of 1965. As the month progresses, these alumni stories will exemplify the short-term and long-term benefits Head Start has provided for our nation’s most vulnerable children and families for the past 50 years.
Are you or anyone you know a Head Start alum? Share this story and sign up at go.nhsa.org/alumni!