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Head Start Alumni Spotlight: Yesenia Calderon

Yesenia Calderon was born in North Carolina to parents who migrated to the United States in the hopes of a better life for their children. Every year her mother and father spent June through November working in tobacco, potato, tomato, cucumber and cotton farms. At the end of November, Yesenia and her siblings would pack all of their belongings and move down to Florida for the orange season.

“We would move twice a year,” Yesenia said, “but Florida always felt like home because that is where RCMA [Redlands Migrant Christian Association] Head Start was.” Yesenia and her siblings were not afforded an early learning experience during the periods her family lived in North Carolina. The only option Yesenia’s parents had to keep the children safe while they worked in North Carolina was to leave them in a room by the fields and check on them every few hours. In contrast, Yesenia explained that while they lived in Florida, RCMA gave them hope and someone they could trust.

“RCMA Head Start is where I learned my first colors and numbers,” Yesenia said. “It gave me my foundation.”

Today, Yesenia Calderon is a college graduate with a degree from the University of Central Florida. This Fall she plans on applying to law school and hopes to attend a top school next year.

“RCMA and Head Start create people like me,” Yesenia said, reflecting on her experiences. “Sixty-four percent of children that migrate don’t even graduate from high school. I don’t think where I am now would have been possible without RCMA Head Start.”


Read more about Yesenia and her Head Start experience in the Highlands Today newspaper.


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.
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