Jesus A. Valdovinos

–  Jesus A. Valdovinos, Head Start graduate and current Head Start administrator, Ruskin, FL

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When I was a boy and my family wasn't following the tomato season along the East Coast, I was enrolled in a Migrant Head Start center in Florida. I remember the classrooms and the joyful noises coming from those classrooms. Most of all I remember the songs that were sung by teachers. Those experiences gave me a taste for learning and using new words and an appreciation for reading. After we settled down in Ruskin, a suburb of Tampa, FL, my family continued to work in the fields. I stayed in the RCMA after-school program for migrant and rural children until the third grade. A few years later, I returned to volunteer in the RCMA teen program. Some of the organizers made sure I earned my high school diploma. That may not seem like such a big deal, but my family was homeless at the time so it was quite an accomplishment.

But then my mentor told me, "Your job is not done yet. You need to go to college." The RCMA program even lent me the money for my college application. A few years down the line, my mentor asked if I wanted to volunteer again. I agreed, and when a tutor position opened up I applied and was hired. I worked as a RCMA tutor for a few years. Then I applied to become the center coordinator. By the time I received the position I had finished my bachelor's degree from the University of South Florida. A few years passed and I was ready for new challenge. I became the family support specialist for child care programs in the Wimauma area and enrolled at Hodges University to earn my master's degree. The people at RCMA are still helping me, and I'm still seeing the results of the "Head Start" I had as a child.