Our family qualified for your services through our low income and my husband’s health difficulties, which has lead to a life-long disability. I had three young children at home, with our oldest just turning four years old, and no resources at hand to pay for a preschool experience. Our income was limited and we survived off of a small income and governmental means. Our highest levels of education were a GED and high school diploma. The reason I am mentioning our education levels in this letter is that the family service specialist that came into our home helped me to set long-term goals that would eventually enable my family to become self-sufficient, own our home, and secure the future for our family.
My son, Mathew, was my first child to experience the wonderful education program your institution offers. His mind was stimulated as he was exposed to many new ways to look at the world around him, as well as through the social interactions he was privy to. The rich, developmentally-appropriate curriculum fostered in him a love for school and learning that paved the way to a successful school career and a lifelong love for education. Mathew, a Head Start graduate, is currently a web-design business owner and a Business student at Weber State. He has financially supported himself since high school with several entrepreneur adventures, the first of which was a sales rep for a multi-level company called Wake-Up Now. This opportunity gave Mathew a great marketing network of business experiences as he developed and secured a comfortable income for himself. Now Mathew is buying and selling on Amazon, selling his web-design and photography skills, and is still working full-time for himself as he is driven to finish his education while continuing to seek opportunities of running his own businesses.
Higher education would likely not be a part of our family’s present situation, or future endeavors, had it not been for the influence of the Head Start program. Six years ago I completed my English Education, BS degree, and have been working ever since as an 8th grade ELA teacher in a school that I love. I am pleased to report that my school’s ELA SAGE (Utah’s State Test) scores have been within the top 5 schools in the state for all of the five years I have been teaching. I am so grateful for the guidance and encouragement I received from the Head Start specialists and the teaching example I witnessed first-hand from the Head Start teachers. For now, not only am I able to financially support my family, I am able to sustain my family doing something that I love.
Head Start is more than just a preschool, it is a program that lifts families up, enabling them to see and reach their potential. I don’t like to think about where our family would be had I not had the opportunity to be a Head Start parent. The family services, particularly the family service specialists who helped me put together a practical plan for my higher education have been an invaluable resource in our family’s financial success. The Head Start teachers who sparked that love for learning in my son and my other children will remain a special place in my heart as a parent with my own children and with those that I am now teaching and inspiring. I will eternally be grateful for those sweet teachers who loved my children and prepared them for a life of success and modeled for me what it is to be a great teacher.
I just recently read “that since its inception, Head Start has served more than 31 million children, birth to age 5, and their families throughout the nation (http://eclkc.ohs,acf.hhs.gov/hslc/data/factsheets/docs/hs-program-fact-sheet-2013.pdf).” My story is one of those 31 million families, and I will be indebted to you forever. My children have watched and supported me as I made my way through college courses, cheering and whooping for me as I crossed the graduation line. All eight children have commented on the positive changes they have noticed in our family since I have gone back to school. I now hear them, in conversation with each other, discussing which university they would like to attend. Head Start lifted our family up, gave us a dream and the confidence that we needed to succeed. Thank you for investing in my family!
Sadie’s Headstart Story
I’d like to introduce my daughter, Sadie. She is a bright 6-year-old girl who loves everything princess who happens to have down syndrome. When Sadie was born, she participated in many of the early intervention services. As soon as she turned 3, she began her preschool journey with our local school district in a special ed classroom. By the fall of 2015, Sadie was dual enrolled in Headstart (mornings) in an inclusive classroom and the school district’s special ed preschool (afternoons). That worked very well, so we continued that situation for the 2016-2017 school year. Not far into 2016, we began noticing differences in her experience between the two classes. Her new special ed teacher didn’t accept any typical model students like the last one did, and we noticed that Sadie was not progressing in the afternoon class like she did in the mornings at Headstart. I would go to the parent teacher conference for the afternoon class and it was all about what Sadie couldn’t do. And that same day, I’d go to the Headstart PT conference and it was all about how much Sadie could do and how much she had progressed. Many of the targets she could do in one class and could not do in another class were the same. This could have been attributed to the different teacher’s personalities and styles, but I also believe the inclusion experience of Headstart encouraged high standards for Sadie. Her Headstart teacher and the Headstart program believes that all children can learn despite their disadvantages. My goal has always been for Sadie to be in a general ed inclusive classroom for kindergarten. I can’t even express my gratitude for Headstart. They believed in her and didn’t dismiss her based on her disability. She was expected to do everything the other kids were doing. When she started Headstart, she wasn’t using utensils and struggled eating solid foods. She couldn’t brush her own teeth, didn’t really know how to play, etc. Within the first year, she was mastering these basic life skills and by the end of her Headstart experience, she had accomplished many of the targets for kindergarten readiness and the things she hadn’t checked off, she had made amazing progress on. In all respects, she was kindergarten ready (with some accommodations and supports). Unfortunately, it was the afternoon teacher that wouldn’t recommend that Sadie be placed in a general ed class. Luckily, we found a charter school that believed in inclusion and that’s where Sadie has been this past year. I’m happy to report that Sadie is one of the top 5 students in the class and is one of the best readers. She is thriving in every area thanks to Headstart and her teachers for having high expectations. I will forever be grateful.
1. What was your family's situation when your child(ren) were attending Mountainland Head Start?
- Recently moved from Miami, Florida
- Joe had resigned from his job at the Port of Miami so we could move to Utah with a lunch truck and a dream.
- Joe was starting a lunch truck business called “Lunch King” then worked with a company building computers he also did substitute teaching at the Jr. High and High School
- Living in parents basement
- One car
- I was a stay home mom with another child at home (two boys ages 2 and 4)
2. How was your child's experience at Mountainland Head Start?
- He enjoyed the preschool very much
- He enjoyed socializing and learning new things
- Was a good experience being away from home and learning to interact with other children.
- Since we only had one vehicle, the bus made it possible for him to attend.
- I thought it was great that there was a bus, lunch, and opportunities to volunteer during preschool.
3. What has been your story since that time?
- Joe trained to be a Microsoft Certified Trainer
- Moved to SLC
- I was unhappy with the quality of Kindergarten in SLC public school so I homeschooled JC and Carl for Kindergarten and Preschool.
- Moved to Lehi
- JC started 1st grade and was the top reader in his class
- I home schooled again for JC third grade through fifth grade and Carl from 1st grade through 3rd grade
- Had a baby girl
- Stay home mom until youngest was in 1st grade
- Started working as second grade aide in a school so that I had the same hours as my kids
- Was promoted to Reading Recovery Specialist and started the Reading Recovery program, STAR Reading, and DIBELS testing in the school.
- Was promoted to full-time as Enrollment Specialist
- 2012 hired at BYU as Department Secretary in the Department of Geology
- Completed my bachelor degree 2016 (Geography Major) and graduated the same time as JC (Geology Major)
- Current student in the EMPA program
4. Was has been your child's story since that time?
- He was the top of the class for reading when he started 1stgrade
- He was in Advanced Learning (ALL) in 6th grade
- He was in Jazz Band in Jr. High
- He attended UCAS and graduated High School with an Associate's Degree.
- He graduated from BYU with a Geology Degree
- Working full time at Boostability as an account manager and thinking about going back to school to earn a Master’s degree.
Oh, I loved Head Start! It was so long ago, but I still have very great memories of being there. I remember the first day I started and I was so scared to get on the bus and go away from home. I was a little upset and worried, but then a nice teacher gave me an Etch a Sketch and talked to me and it just made everything better! I loved playing with the toys on the bus, and I remember the bus driver would play fun music for us. I had the best teacher ever, as well! Wanda Nichols, but she was always Miss Wanda to us, was such a wonderful, kind and energetic teacher. I know it sounds nerdy, but I just fell in love with school and with learning because she made it so fun! I was so sad to leave, but excited to be starting elementary school. I remember drawing pictures on our desks with shaving cream and making lots of art that I got to take home to my parents. I think my mom actually kept one with her when she went to the hospital so she would be able to have a piece of me there with her. I remember playing on the playground with a bunch of kids and making a lot of friends who lived close enough to me that I grew up around. Overall, I just had great experiences at Head Start! It was such a fantastic program, and I got to have some of the kindest and brightest people as helpers.
Shelby Spainhower - attended Head Start in Provo from 1997-98
(Currently attends Brigham Young University, Provo)
Brynn Gardner Leavitt
In 1985 I went to Mountainland Headstart in Pleasant Grove. I was 4 years old. And without Mountainland Head Start I would not have had the opportunity to attend preschool because of my parent’s financial situation. I am proud to say I attended Head Start and learned many things there, especially social skills and I still remember my teacher, Miss Elaine. It was a great environment for me and I was able to come out of my shy shell! I am grateful for the opportunities that it has lead me to in my life.
Sincerely, Brynn Gardner Leavitt
When my oldest child was a Head Start kid I volunteered in the classroom and learned many behaviors that have not only helped her to be excited about education but were empowering to me as a parent. Cynics may claim that these behaviors modeled and taught in the classroom are common sense, but to homes where these behaviors are absent I suggest these are learned behaviors. Simple behaviors, such as expecting children to verbalize their feelings and requests, story time, memorizing nursery rhymes, field trips, involving parents to work on activities at home with children, dental routines, balanced meals were all part of the behaviors I observed in the Head Start classroom and were eagerly implemented in our home with great success.
My experience with Head Start encouraged me to continue my education and I am pleased to say that I have just recently completed a PhD in Educational Leadership and Foundations from BYU. A large part of my desire to complete this degree was because of my experience as a Head Start parent and the empowerment that came from knowing how to advocate for my children. It sparked an interest to be more than an educational advocate for my children, but for children and students in general and to understand behaviors that lead to educational success.