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Ed Casias

–  Ed Casias, Gospel Hall Head Start, Denver, CO

Ed Casias

I don't know how or why my mother signed us up for Head Start, but I think it was one of the best decisions she ever made for us. My father dropped out of school in the 9th grade to support his younger siblings. He is a Korean War Veteran and I believe he realized education was the way for us to avoid the back-breaking labor that he was doing to support his family. My mother is a high school graduate and was a very good student, but she did not have the option of college. She married my father at a young age and started a family; however, I believe she knew we had great potential and wanted to give us every opportunity to better our lives.

Of the eight children in my family, four of us attended Head Start. I was the first, followed by my sister Dawn, my brother Sam, and my brother Luke. Of the four children in my family that attended Head Start, all four graduated from high school, three graduated from college, and two obtained post-graduate degrees. Of the four that did not attend Head Start, three graduated from high school and one obtained a college degree.

I still remember walking into Gospel Hall for Head Start. It was located in an old church. The assembly room had been cleared and we sat on a wooden floor for most of the class. The church had a playground that we would use for outdoor activity time. The church is still there, and when I dropped in with my son a year ago, there was a group of kids present in the assembly room. The floor had been carpeted, but nothing else had changed. I don't know if the group was of Head Start kids, but I did explain to the adult that I was showing my pre-school aged son where I had attended pre-school.

When I started Head Start, it was my first experience away from my family. One of my aunts was my teacher and it's a good thing she was, because I did not know that my name was "Edward." All of us kids have family nicknames that are still used to this day. As I had never been called "Ed" or "Edward" before, I did not know who people were talking to when I was addressed as "Edward." Thankfully, my aunt was there and could call me by my nickname. I have to credit Head Start for teaching me my name. I remember learning to count in Head Start and being rewarded for reaching a certain number by receiving M&Ms. I truly believe Head Start provided me with the foundation for all of my learning tools and educational ambitions.

By way of side note, I grew up with a group of six friends. Some of them attended Head Start and some did not. Of the six friends, three attended Head Start with me and three did not. The three that attended Head Start graduated from high school. Of the three that did not attend Head Start, one committed suicide and two served prison sentences. None of them graduated from high school. I cannot say that Head Start would have saved them, but I believe it might have helped.

I graduated from Manual High School in 1983. I attended and graduated from Colorado College, a highly ranked liberal arts college, in 1987. I attended Colorado College on an academic scholarship. After obtaining my Bachelor of Arts degree in business and economics, I applied to various law schools. Ultimately, I attended Ohio State University College of Law and obtained my Juris Doctor in 1990. After graduating law school, I worked for a prestigious law firm in Denver for 18 months before leaving private practice to become a state prosecutor. I was a state prosecutor for 10 years, ultimately reaching the level of assistant district attorney for the 5th judicial district of Colorado. I was the number two prosecutor in the district, just below the elected district attorney. In September of 2000, I was appointed by Governor Bill Owens to the Summit County Court bench in Breckenridge, CO. I have been the county court judge since that date.

I cannot speak enough about the benefits of Head Start. I truly believe it saves lives. May it continue to be the pathway to success for all children who need the services it provides. If there is any way I can help this wonderful program, all it has to do is ask.