Pictured from left to right: Darren Walker and Kenneth Ward
Monday, May 18th is the 50th Anniversary of President Lyndon B. Johnson's announcement of the founding of the Head Start program. This week we are featuring blog posts by Head Start alumni who celebrate the role the program has played in their lives or in the lives of their children.
I want to salute Head Start teachers across the country who are opening windows of opportunity for our nation’s most vulnerable children and families. As a Head Start graduate and lifelong educator, I can speak firsthand to the incredible difference these teachers are making in their communities.
I grew up one of three children in a single-parent household in a small rural town in North Carolina. Life wasn’t easy and my mother worked two jobs to make ends meet, so when she heard of a local, federally funded pre-K program, she knew too clearly that I would need this “head start” to compete in life and have the opportunities that had escaped her.
In my rural community where few people went on to attend college after high school and many didn’t finish high school, my Head Start teachers instilled in me a confidence and joy of learning that truly laid the foundation for my success. Despite facing the inherent barriers of poverty and a poor school system, I went on to thrive throughout my academic career, graduating as valedictorian of my senior class and receiving a full academic scholarship to attend the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
I went on to teach for 15 years, and today I run College Bound, a DC based educational nonprofit that makes college a reality for at-risk students. Many of the students I work with now are also Head Start children- and it shows. The difference Head Start teachers make in those critical early years for parents and children alike is undeniable.
So as the natiion continues to celebrate teachers and Head Start celebrates its own 50th birthday, I want to thank Head Start teachers for their truly life changing work that is giving all children and families a chance at success.