Bonificia R. Riedel

–  Bonificia R. Riedel, former Head Start parent and current Head Start administrator, Cheyenne, WY

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A blue toothbrush, a comb and a balloon. I still remember my Head Start teacher giving me those wonderful gifts more than 40 years ago. They meant so much to a child who had so little.

My father was an alcoholic and our family often struggled for the bare necessities, such as food and electricity. My mom had little time or energy to guide me and my six siblings. As a result, I never felt smart. I simply learned to accept what I thought were my shortcomings.

When I became a parent, Head Start helped me see beyond my insecurities. After I enrolled the last of my children in Head Start, I decided to go to college. I was so scared. I sat in the reception area of our local community college for an hour before I asked for help. The Head Start staff helped me choose classes and navigate financial aid. They kept me going every time I felt like dropping out.

When I graduated from nursing school I became a Head Start health coordinator. I kept getting promoted but I was still shocked when they asked me to interview for the Head Start director position. I was beside myself when I got the job! I love what I do.

Thanks to Head Start, my own son entered public school three years ahead in reading and writing skills. He is in college now. My eyes tear up when I see what an incredible young man he has grown to be. Head Start taught me so much about parenting, early childhood development, and most important, about myself and my abilities.

I cannot begin to express the good fortune that Head Start has brought to my life and my entire family. My heart is full of pride as I share my Head Start story.