This story is about Andrea*, a young mother of two who was new to the United States and lived with an abusive partner. When she entered our program, she and her children were shy and withdrawn. Our staff at Walnut Grove Head Start enjoyed making families feel welcome and feel like one big family and gave Andrea and her family this same warm welcome.
With time, she formed friendships with other parents in the program, and began to participate in parent activities. Our family service worker helped her enroll in ESL classes and gave her resources for dealing with an abusive partner. Andrea became our parent aid, helping to prepare our school meals, which gave her the confidence to later find work in the community. Over the course of four years, two of her children attended our program. Andrea went from being a battered woman with so little confidence she was afraid to look someone in the eye, to the strong and independent woman she is today.
We adopted her as our “little sister” and poured our hearts into helping her have the courage to stand up for herself and to live a life free from the abuse. It has been eight years, and not only are we still friends, but I became the Godmother to her third child. Her oldest son is thriving as a high school senior with a 4.0 GPA. Her daughter is a beautiful young girl, no longer shy and timid as she once was. Andrea later married one of our program’s cook-drivers and had two more children. I am proud to say our program provided Andrea — with two young children and no family to turn to — a supportive and warm environment that gave her a new head start in life. Download the flier of this story.
Why I’m a Head Start Teacher
The first part of my 25-year career was spent at Walnut Grove Head start and I feel it shaped me in more ways than I can count. I got married, had my three boys during the 12 years I spent working in that humble and hardworking community and learned so much from the families that I worked with. During those years, I realized what an impact we could make in the lives of others and to take on that responsibility seriously. I also learned the importance of not always being the teacher and learning from others as well. I was a new mom myself and learned so much from the families in our program.
What has kept me working for Head Start as a teacher for 25 years is that I believe that our program is unique and unlike no other local child care center around. We support not only the child but the entire family. I embrace the philosophy of creating strong relationships with our families and making the parents feel like they are their child’s first teacher. I honestly love my job and feel blessed to have met the most amazing families over the years!
Marlo Lopez, Teacher
Grizzly Hollow Head Start
*Name changed to protect privacy
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Head Start Story: By Marlo Lopez