A successful life is built layer by layer with a combination of vision, perseverance and hard work. Parents and staff will learn from these true life stories about the challenges, dreams, and successes of three Head Start parents.
The following is an excerpt from Training Guides for the Head Start Learning Community: Building on Success.
Everyone wants success, but we all have different ideas of what that means. We each start in different places, set our sights on different goals, and use different means of moving toward them. A small accomplishment for one person might be a major achievement for another. The meaning of success really depends on the individual.
It is true for everyone, however, that the quest for success is never finished. Anyone who attains success has to work to hold onto it. Furthermore, the achievement of one goal usually reveals another. Likewise, a person can be successful in one area while still struggling in another. Thus, success involves a continuous striving toward goals. It is not an end result that is achieved. Rather, it is a continuous process of growth.
It is possible to fall into success, but more often it comes through conscious effort. You shape your future by taking the time to contemplate where you are, where you want to go, and the strengths and skills you can use to get there. Striving toward success often means setting priorities and identifying specific goals. It is necessary to prepare by thinking through the challenge involved in reaching a goal, in order to lessen surprise and reduce failure.
[You can] build skills in self-reflection, priority and goal setting, and preparing for challenges. Strength in these skills will enable [you] not only to reach [your] own goals, but to better support others on their journeys toward success.
Also [you can] consider the essential role that support from others play in [your] success. This support may come in different forms. For example, it may be encouragement from peers or it may be volunteer learning, or work opportunities that enable one to acquire the skills and experiences needed to pursue a chosen goal…
Here are three true stories written by Head Start parents about their life journeys and the role Head Start played in their journeys.
James: A Significant Man
I got involved in Head Start after my children enrolled in the program three years ago. A single father raising two children, I realized that Head Start was offering assistance through center meetings and workshops. The Director said, “James, you know we’ve got these two children here now, you’ve got to get involved.” What hooked me was that first Christmas when the program gave us a “Certificate of Love” and a gift basket in response to some family needs I had shared with the director. That buttered me up and I decided to really get involved.
When election came around I decided to run for Vice Chair of the Policy Council. A number of parents encouraged me to run for chairman because they felt I had leadership skills. So I did, and I became chair. I recruited another man to run for office and there we were, two men and about 40 or 50 women! We worked hard together to get other men involved. We had a luncheon to recruit men. All men were invited. They didn’t have to be fathers and their admission was to bring at least one child. We discussed how to keep a men’s group going and that is how the Significant Male Task Force began.
The staff began to love what we were doing, so when the Task Force got a newsletter going, the staff helped out with it. The Policy Council also lent its skills to the group. Recently, the Significant Male Task Force has added a Storytelling and Reading Program for men to work with Head Start and the schools. The Task Force is also starting a computer class to show the men how to work on Windows. We also have an extensive annual Christmas program for children.
I see myself as a community activist. Anything can move you towards self-sufficiency if you develop your skills. My dream is to have a center for career and business development in an apartment building within the community. It would serve members of the Significant Male Task Force and have a variety of different businesses under one roof. An administrative staff would help with books, payroll, and taxes. Everyone would have a professional skill and support one another.
Rose: A Grandmother on a Mission
Ten days after graduating from a Christian drug rehab, I was given custody of two grandchildren, ages 2 and 3. I walked into my first Parent Meeting, totally overwhelmed. I was elected to the Policy Committee at that very first meeting. I walked out of the meeting determined to be a success! I was terribly intimidated by the responsibility of these children, and the role of representative faced me squarely in the face. I spoke with the head teacher and shared my fears. She helped me see things in myself I had never looked at before. I began to value my outgoing and caring personality. I increased my self-esteem through training and took every workshop offered on parent involvement. I set my goal to become an advocate for others with the same background I had come from and to break the chains of chemical dependency in families.
Later I was elected Chairperson of my Policy Council. Staff assisted me in developing public speaking skills. I began to set short-term and long-term goals for my future. If I were to be successful, I needed to find an avenue to utilize my knowledge of gangs and drugs. A director suggested that I prepare a workshop for staff at my agency. This opportunity helped me to see my value to the community and staff. I slowly developed new mannerisms and characteristics that helped me believe in myself.
I began to get involved more in local community coalitions and partnerships in the areas of crime, drugs, and gang prevention. When I was elected chairperson of a drug prevention coalition and was the recipient of a Citizen Recognition Award from my County Board of Supervisors, I knew that I was on my way. I started to formulate a plan to continue my education and to not be so quick to volunteer for everything people asked of me. I think this was the hardest part of my change. I learned to rely on my instincts and when in doubt, I learned to wait.
I was so surprised when one of the board members called and offered me a job with a mental health clinic that provides services to adolescents and children. I looked back at the goals I set with that head teacher, and realized that I had accomplished them all. I now am earning a salary that I never thought possible. I am now in college working towards a chemical dependency counselor license. I am moving into the 21st century as a success.
Beverly: A Multi-Talented Woman
It first started for me about four years ago when I learned from another parent about the experiences they had gained from volunteering in the Head Start program. I wanted to become more involved in my children’s lives and thought by going to school with them I would be able to develop a close bond. So I volunteered in the classroom for a while, and then elections were held for parents to serve on the Policy Council. While I did not know the duties of the Policy Council, I thought the fellowship with other parents like myself would be inviting. I was elected to the Policy Council and right away knew that this would be a place for me to help make a change in my community.
I joined the Social Services Committee. That was very important to me because I was a client of those services and I believed it would be beneficial for me and others to know what was happening. I then joined other committees that I believed in (Special Needs, Budget, Career Development, etc.). I was elected to treasurer of the Policy Council and became more involved as the year passed. I joined for a second year, and began to develop ideas for the Policy Council to carry out.
About that time, my family became homeless. It was very difficult for me. However, I continued volunteering with the Head Start program three times a week. At that time I decided to take charge of my life. I utilized the contacts I had made with the Head Start program and moved my family into stable housing. As other Head Start families faced eviction I was able to use my experience to help them. I then became chairperson of the Policy Council and took a leadership role advocating for parents, training them, and using my experiences with community resources to help them. I was offered a job serving homeless families at the Department of Health and Human Services. This employment made it possible for me to no longer receive Public Assistance, and I will receive an educational award to continue my schooling.
Not only am I working toward my goal of economic independence, I am now helping other families work toward that same goal. I have also used my position with Head Start to help new eligible families become enrolled in the program. With the changes to welfare reform, I have kept the families abreast of the changes affecting their lives. And, I have encouraged Head Start parents to reach out to the community by helping the programs that serve the homeless.