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Mel Gravely

A Personal Head Start Story: Katrina

head start personal storyWe recently had another submission for our ongoing initiative: Share Your Head Start Story. This story submitted by Katrina from Alaska is a familiar one. A child who grew up in Head Start and had a great experience, grows up to become an employee of a Head Start program to share that experience with others.

We love reading these stories. Keep ’em coming!

“I was a Head Start child in 1986, in the hills of Tennessee-Sevierville to be exact, the home town of Dolly Pardon’s “Dolly Wood.” We lived on the meager wages my dad made playing music on the weekends and cleaning pools as his daytime job. My mom worked as a receptionist at a hotel. I am not sure how they found out about Head Start, but I am so glad that they did. I have fond memories of my time in Head Start. I remember the bus rides and practicing evacuation drills. I remember the hearing screening performed in a small little room I had not been in before. I can still picture the classroom layout, the writing center, the tables where we ate lunch and made art, and the dramatic play area. There, I learned to count to one hundred, to begin to write my name-first with stencils, then on my own. My “N” was often backwards. More importantly, I learned to make friends, get along with others, and follow classroom rules and expectations. I learned I could do lots of things if I tried.

“At the end of the year, our parents came to a celebration. Together, the children, families, and staff planted a tree near our playground. Throughout my life, I have often wondered how big that tree is now. As an adult, I realize now that the tree we planted almost 30 years ago is symbolic of my experience in Head Start. Like that tree, I started out small and vulnerable in a big world. Head Start tended to my roots and supported my parents in making sure I flourished. My experience in Head Start helped shape who I am today. Head Start helped provide a solid foundation for me. Head Start built me up. My time there instilled in me a love of learning. Remember, as you go through each day, teachers and Head Start staff, that each child that comes through our doors is like a sapling, small and vulnerable to the big world around them. We help to nurture them, build them up, prepare them for success in school and in life; we tend to their roots, their families. The services we provide make a difference every day in the lives of our most vulnerable children.

“Today I work for a Head Start program in Anchorage, Alaska. I have been blessed to be a Head Start employee for the past twelve years. I worked for eight years in family services, four as a family advocate, four as the coordinator. For the past four years I have been the Human Resources Manager. I view my job now as an extension of family services. I supported families and children directly and as a coordinator of services. Now I get the privilege of supporting staff.

“I owe so much to head start. I am a better learner, parent, employee, and community member because of what this program has done for me and my family. May it continue to help generations of families as it did mine.”


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