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From Head Start to the World

I too, like Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez, would like to thank all of the wonderful staff working in and on behalf of every Head Start and Early Head Start program across the world, from the bus driver to the director to Senators and community leaders and everyone in between. And yes, I mean world because I know that this program or various aspects of this model, are being used globally in early child care and education settings (thanks World Forum Foundation). Can you believe it?!?!

I decided to tell you my story because it shows how “HEAD START WORKS!!!!”

Why am I so passionate about Head Start? Because I am Head Start, I am one of the 27 million Head Start participants, I am a Head Start and Early Head Start parent, I am a Head Start and Early Head Start staff and I am a Head Start and Early Head Start advocate.

When I was 3 years old, a lady knocked on my door and offered my mom an opportunity she could not refuse, which was to have me enrolled into a program that would get me out of the house, take me on field trips and  learn for 3 ½ hours a day (except on Fridays). My mom was skeptical at first but then accepted the offer because she thought “well, this will give me time to clean, cook and yes watch the stories”.  My mom enrolled me into my local Head Start program and thus began my journey of exploration, knowledge of the world away from my front yard, to know that I could be anything I wanted to be and the desire to learn. Since my days as a Head Start student, I have, as I often say “grown up here” and for me that says a lot.

As a former parent, I was fortunate to be able to have both of my children progress though Head Start and Early Head Start while I obtained two college degrees and began my working career as a Head Start staff person. I have seen firsthand the benefits of this early child care and education model. It allowed me to be the first one in my family to go on to not only start but finish college, with 3 degrees; it broke the cycle of long term poverty; it created an elementary school valedictorian; it shaped a 3 year old girl, who had big hopes and dreams into a woman who oversees one of our nation’s largest Head Start and Early Head Start grantees ; it sent that same woman to a global conference with world leaders  and early child care and education advocates, to tell the world about the benefits of this program and now she is recognized as a Global Leader for Early Child Care and Education across the world.

You see, when my Head Start teacher told me that I could be anything I wanted to be, she meant it. That’s why I am so proud to be part of one of the world’s shiniest stars in the atmosphere.

Remember, “Head Start Works”! I am a reflection of this to be a true fact.

- Loukisha Smart-Pennix, Director of Children and Youth Services for the City of Chicago