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Head Start Alumni Spotlight: Michelle Mendoza

I was born and raised in Carrizo Springs, TX, a small, close-knit town an hour north of the US-Mexico border. Since before I was born my parents and their families would migrate up north 1,400 miles and work the sugar beet fields near Wahpeton, ND. My father’s parents and siblings would migrate every summer since he was 6 years old. Growing up in a migrant household was tough at times. Both of my parents finished High School but decided not to further their education so they could care for their family.

I started in the Head Start program when I was 3 years old. At the time my mother had two jobs and my father was working in the oil fields and was gone for weeks at a time. My parents worked very hard to keep us fed, clothed, and healthy. The Head Start program gave my sister and I a jump start to our education. Coming from a household where both parents worked tirelessly to care for us, and whose education level was limited, we needed the extra help and a head start to our education. The Head Start program prepared my sister and I for kindergarten and made us ready to learn. We knew how to follow directions, raise our hands, line up, and use our manners. I transitioned from Head Start to kindergarten without any language struggles, which made learning much easier for me.

As we grew older, my sister and I would still travel with our family as they migrated to harvest the sugar beet fields. At 9 years old, my job was to bring water to the workers on the field as they worked in the heat. My sister and I would find shelter from the sun behind a large tractor tire. Looking back at my childhood, I am grateful to have started with Head Start before kindergarten.  I believe if my parents had not taken the opportunity Head Start had provided I would have had difficulty being social with my peers at school and been behind the rest of the students who already knew how to write their names or their alphabets. Because of this, I grew to love learning and wasn’t afraid of any challenges.

I received my undergraduate degree in Exercise and Sport Science from Texas State University in San Marcos, TX. I also went on to get my Master’s degree in Differentiated Instruction from Concordia University in Austin, TX. I am now a Physical Education teacher at KIPP Austin in Texas and love helping equip my students to face their challenges.

 

 

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!