Head Start California hosted its first in-person Annual Conference since 2020 and it was a resounding success with more than 650 Head Start staff and parents in attendance at the Hilton Long Beach.

Special thanks to the annual conference planning committee for their diligent work in providing program perspective on training needs, identifying speakers, and providing on-site support. Most notably, the committee selected the content for more than 40 sessions for the 2024 Parent and Family Engagement Conference and over 60 sessions for the Education Conference —a remarkable achievement! This year’s committee included: Billiejo LaBriola, Sandra Gonzales-Pabon, Karen Fukushima, Debra Hall, Kindell Graham, and Threasa Hernandez. We couldn’t do it without you!

We heard from attendees that the recent conference was a seamless experience, with everything “conveniently located under one roof”. The gathering provided ample opportunities for interaction with individuals from diverse backgrounds and organizations. The variety of workshops allowed for exploration and learning in various areas, making the experience enriching for everyone involved.

Parent and Family Engagement Conference Highlights

Monday morning kicked off with an opening keynote featuring the esteemed Dr. Ronald Mah! Dr. Mah’s keynote, “Your Fault!? Your Responsibility- The Dynamics of Great to Lousy Parenting (or Teaching), Challenges, Mistakes, Strategies, Theories to Raise Amazing Children” drew attendees in with its engaging content and humor. One attendee expressed gratitude for his insights, stating, “I always enjoy Ronald Mah’s keynotes and presentations. He is able to put many things into perspectives for parents, especially.” Many others echoed this sentiment, commending his relatable anecdotes and insightful references.

Thank you to those who attended our dessert reception! Networking Bingo proved to be a fun way to get people out of their seats to make new connections.

On Day Two we welcomed our keynote, Maestro Jerry Tello, who brought to our attention the importance of Honoring Children, Embracing their Story, and Guiding their Future. Maestro Tello connected with the audience through his unique storytelling ability, reminding us to affirm traditions and root our children in positive values. One attendee noted, “Amazing keynote! Culturally sensitive and inclusive with the ability to share unique experiences.”

One standout aspect of the conference was the chance to connect with like-minded professionals in the same field. Meeting people who share a positive outlook and a deep commitment to the well-being of families and children was particularly inspiring. The presenters, without exception, left a lasting impression, and the use of the conference app served as a helpful tool in staying organized and on schedule.
Thank you to all our members who joined us to kick off the first conference of the week!

Education Conference Highlights

On Wednesday, our Education Conference commenced with an invigorating presentation by returning speaker Jovonne Dempster, delving into the theme of “Empowering and Connecting Communities through Intentional Narratives.” Jovonne’s impactful message resonated deeply, reminding us that our stories define us, whether spoken or unspoken. Central to our mission is fostering a sense of community among our programs, colleagues, and families. One attendee remarked, “[Jovonne] is inspirational and checks my momentum in a very positive ways. She strengthens my belief of education and reinforces my journey, beliefs and purpose as an educator.”

This year, we successfully introduced a fresh addition to our lineup: the Karaoke Mixer, made possible by the generous sponsorship of Learning Genie, Lakeshore Learning, Discount School Supply, and Kaplan. Fun was had by all, and a few brave souls even took the stage to perform lively hits such as “Ice, Ice, Baby” and “Bohemian Rhapsody.” Several attendees joined the HSC team in costume and two walked away with prizes for best-dressed.

The conference boasted a diverse group of attendees and presenters, contributing to a rich and dynamic atmosphere. Guest speakers shared relatable stories that resonated with the audience, creating a sense of unity and understanding among participants.

Our conference closed with Paul Figeroa, whose topic was Reclaiming Joy and Purpose: “Wait, Did My Brain Just Do That?!! His interactive session shared helpful tools that we can apply every day. One attendee noted, “I appreciate the inspirational strategies that can be incorporated into my day-to-day routine at work. I do see how thinking of fun and meaningful memories, activities, and events helps to lift spirits.”

Thanks to our generous gold sponsor, First 5 California! First 5 California plays an essential role in shaping and supporting California’s early childhood system. They have been a steady champion for children, we are glad to be partnering with them, and deeply appreciate their support for this conference. Our conference was also sponsored by three silver sponsors: Celebrate SEL, Teaching Strategies, and Hubbe.

The foyer was buzzing with excitement on Wednesday and Thursday as nearly 30 exhibitors showcased their offerings, and attendees scanned QR codes placed at each table. Attendees had a blast scanning codes, earning points, and redeeming them for raffle tickets to earn prizes, all via the conference app. Prizes included a $500 Southwest gift card, Amazon gift cards, and many great prizes donated by our exhibitors.

We are grateful to everyone who participated in the conference! You are all part of the fabric of the Head Start narrative, weaving together stories that connect us. We hope you left feeling inspired and ready to continue your journey, equipped with a fresh set of tools in your toolbox.


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