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Mel Gravely

A Personal Head Start Story by Element Everest

element_everestRecently, I asked my client and friend Element Everest to share her Head Start Story with me for this blog. What she told me is just another great example of the power of Head Start to transform lives…

When I take time to think about all of the fond memories from my childhood, I have a tremendous amount of appreciation for just how hard it is to raise children, especially on one income and without a man in the home. My mother did her best to make sure that my brother, sister and I had access to a plethora of recreational and educational opportunities. Raising three children on her own, my mother decided early on that the only way to insure her toddlers had a strong educational foundation was to enroll them in Head Start.

If I had to pick one moment that stood out amongst the rest, it would definitely be my first day of school in Head Start. Simply put, other than my mother, the Head Start program played the single biggest role in my childhood development. It is not an overstatement to say my Head Start experience set the foundation for my future career as a quality assurance consultant, a job which requires meticulous attention to detail.

I remember walking into this big beautiful white church; the home of Evergreen Head Start. As a part of this program I would learn how to do much more than just read and write. I made friends for the first time in my life and learned what it meant to set a goal, be discipline, and develop a “stick to it” mentality until I achieved my objective.
For us Head Start was a family affair. When my younger brother turned three he was also inducted into the Head Start family. As a family we celebrated our culture with others from diverse backgrounds who shared similar life experiences.

Over time my mother decided that head Start has given her family so much that it was time she give back. “Ms. Toni”—as we affectionately call her—dedicated one day a week to volunteer in a Head start classroom. Needless to say, one day turned to two, two turned to three and so on, until she eventually she was voted vice president of the policy council.
And Ms. Toni didn’t stop there. My mother decided to go back to school to earn her Associate’s and Bachelor’s degree in early childhood education. She continued her work in Head Start for another five years before retiring.

Years later, when my younger brother and older sister had their children, all of them attended Head Start.

In 2008 I accepted a position with the same non-profit agency that administered the Head Start I attended as a child. Three years into my employment I was presented with the opportunity to work directly with the Head Start program by providing quality assurance. I was overjoyed to be able to use my position as Head Start monitor to assist in improving program.

I had come full circle personally and professionally. I could now give back to the program that had given so much to my entire family.

I now have a child of my own—my daughter is less than a year away from being eligible to join the Head Start family. I’m hoping that one day when she’s asked to recall her earliest memories she’ll answer “My first day of school in Head Start.”

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  1. David M. Perry says:

    Great story; great process;great and thoughtful participants.
    You all keep up the the enthusiasm and dedication so those experiences can be the fortunes of those who proudly follow in your footsteps.
    Thank you for sharing your story, i’m sure your family is much appreciated in the programs in your organization.
    Thank God for those( like you) who truly give back, especially when the need is obviously the lifeline to the future of so many children in our country.
    I wish you Godspeed in your endeavor !

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