It has been my pleasure to give the same care and nurturing to children and families (at Head Start) that I and my children once received.
– Marcia Claggett, Head Start administrator, Calvert County, MD
Good Afternoon, my name is Marcia Claggett. I reside in Calvert County, MD and work at the United Planning Organization's (UPO) Office of Early Learning in Washington, DC. As a child at the age of 3, I was enrolled in the Head Start program located at the Southern Maryland Tri-County Community Action Committee. The year would be 1970. I completed two years of Head Start with the program and have to add that my mother was introduced to much needed services that assisted her in making ends meet.
Eighteen years later, I would find myself as a teenage mom/wife and was fortunate enough to have my daughter enroll in the same facility that I had once attended as a child! My daughter would have the same teacher, that I once had: Mrs. Ephonia Wills. This Head Start program assisted my family in such a manner that neither my husband nor I could ever repay our gratitude. Nor do I think that they are aware of how that time of caring and instruction for our daughter enabled me to find a job and continue with training so I could obtain a better job. Most importantly, the woman I had become so fond of now had a viable part in teaching my child. She gave me such a feeling of pride and accomplishment, that I and my husband were on the right track even though things might not be easy.
However, we were to pay no attention to that! We were to strive for excellence and that meant setting goals and providing a good home for our family. Participating in home visits, parent meetings, and learning the value of early childhood education and everyday life skills was monumental in developing a firm foundation for me and my family. I would later seek assistance at that same agency in the year 2000 and join the AmeriCorps volunteer program. This program provided me with a contractual agreement for a full-time job with stipend, free health care for myself and children and an education allowance for two years that greatly assisted in my obtaining a bachelor's degree in early childhood. I enrolled immediately in night classes and I graduated early in 2003. Sixty days after I graduated, I applied for a position as a center director with the same agency in their Head Start program and obtained the position. Ninety days later, I applied for the position as center specialist under the supervision of Gail Govoni and was in charge of two counties, Calvert and St. Mary's, overseeing the Head Start centers in both counties. I would also now be the supervisor of Mrs. Ephonia Wills—yes, my same Head Start teacher that I had in 1970! She was still gracing families and being a grandmother to all. I think the teaching was a plus. The nurturing and tender loving care that she provided to children and families was still evident as soon as she would walk into a room!
This story sounds great, but it's not over yet! I was intrigued with the agency and wanted to be on the administrative side, so I applied and obtained a promotion working under the agency president and CEO. I would later have to resign due to health reasons in 2008—a long battle with Bell's Palsy. It would be four and a half years later that my husband, now of 26 years, would run into Gail Govoni who eventually would become the Head Start director at Southern Maryland Tri-County Community Action Committee, Inc. and a grantee specialist for ICF. She soon thereafter became the Head Start director for United Planning Organization and sent me a message that she was looking for a regional manager. I interviewed and was offered one of the two regional positions. After three years, I am now the monitoring and compliance manager for UPO's Office of Early Learning under now Vice President of Education, Gail Govoni.
It has been my pleasure to give the same care and nurturing to children and families that I and my children once received. Some days are hectic and there are moments filled with task lists that never seem to be completed. But it is worth it: For every child that is not hungry, is healthy, and is learning and for every parent that realizes their struggles matter and that they are not alone. It's also worth it for me to know that if I don't quit, if I don't give up, I will make a better way for me and my children and for every staff person striving for excellence, who brainstorms endlessly about what they can do to assist a child or family by asking "who can I call?" or "where can I go?"
I would not trade any of it for a million bucks! Each day, I am able to give thanks and can count it as a blessing. Knowing that I have contributed in some small way to the betterment of children and families is priceless for me. One day, I will be a voice and policy maker assisting in creating greater opportunities for the Office of Head Start and the people it serves across this world. Thank you, Head Start!