Kelly Compton

–  Kelly Compton, preschool/school-age education coordinator, the Council on Rural Services, Logan County, OH

Kelly Compton with adult children

When I first read about Head Start in the newspaper, I was 23 years old. I had already been married for almost four years and was the mother of a 3 year old and a 1 year old. I was and still am very passionate about the success of my children.

Head Start would be just that—a head start for their learning. Each child would have their own unique experience in Head Start. My daughter's outgoing nature helped her ease quickly into the preschool environment and the teachers nurtured her eagerness to always be learning. This fostered in her a drive to be a lifelong learner and supported her in having a successful public school experience.

My son, on the other hand, gave the teachers a true run for their money. He struggled with self-regulation, focus, and attention. Even though he was challenging, they saw through his behaviors and found his great sense of humor and his overwhelming curiosity about the world. The Head Start teachers helped discover he was a kinesthetic learner and found ways to engage him to encourage focus and attention. This positive support would serve him well, as he moved through the public school system. Although, the original idea was to help the children, Head Start ended up helping me just as much.

The Head Start teachers saw something in me that I had not sensed myself yet: an aptitude and passion for early childhood education. They encouraged me to volunteer, be involved in the parent group and Policy Council, and finally, to apply for a position with Head Start in Hardin County, OH. After several years of working there and at a local daycare, I applied for an assistant teacher position with the Council on Rural Services, the Head Start agency in Logan County, OH and eight other counties.

I literally "grew up" with Head Start and the Council on Rural Services. The assistant teacher position was just the tip of the iceberg for me. The Council on Rural Services employs many dedicated people who embody the Head Start early childhood education philosophy and impacted my professional career, in addition to my life as a whole. Throughout the past 15 years with Council on Rural Services and Head Start, I have been encouraged and supported to complete my associate's degree, and then my bachelor's degree along with gaining positions within the agency of increasing responsibility. It has been a journey from assistant to head teacher, then area coordinator, and finally the position I now hold as preschool/school age education coordinator for all nine counties.

From my experience as a Head Start parent, I bring empathy to my role within the agency. I can honestly say: "I know what you are going through," or "I know how you feel" to parents of the children we serve. I have walked in the low-income shoes, young parent shoes, and parent-of-a-challenging-child shoes. I know the joys and upsets of being a parent. I also have learned the value of advocacy. Not only did I advocate for my own children, but for other children as well, because all children deserve equal opportunities to grow, learn, and succeed and have dedicated adults to stand up and make the children's voices heard.

From all the people who have enriched my life and career I have learned to lead by example and share the experience and knowledge with others. I endeavor every day to support and share my experience with peers and new staff members, as others have done for me through example and mentorship.

By the way, my children have grown up too. My daughter is now a wife and mother to our first grandchild. She has put her career in early childhood education on hold to be full time with her son in these formative years. My son will soon become a shift supervisor at a nearby manufacturing facility. We have all benefited from the wonderful experiences we had and continue to have with Head Start!