Nancy Kessay

–  Nancy Kessay, Head Start family and community partnership manager, Whiteriver, AZ

Sabastian Kessay pitching a baseball

I want to share a story about my experience with Head Start. I am a firm believer that Head Start works. My mom started with a Head Start Tribal Program in 1965. She went from classroom teacher to assistant director. I eventually ended up working for a tribal program as well where all my children attended. I was in the classroom for six years and then moved on to other opportunities in the community.

In 2000, I received my degree and moved to the Mesa, AZ area. I obtained a position with Maricopa County Head Start as a site director. Seven years later, I felt the urge to move up and became an area supervisor with the program. This past June, I moved up to the position of family and community partnership manager. I have also had eight of my 15 grandchildren attend the Head Start program. This past June, an article was done on my oldest grandson who attended two years of Head Start on the Ft. Apache Indian Reservation in Whiteriver, AZ.

"Native professional athletes are emerging across the United States, with many like Notah Begay and Shoni Schimmel adding their names to this elite group with the legendary Billy Mills. In recent years, the growth of Begay and Schimmel has ignited Native fans from tribal communities, inspiring tribal youth and bringing pride to tribal households. Emerging into this list of esteemed athletes is White Mountain Apache tribal member, Sabastian Kessay. Kessay comes from the small community of Hon-Dah, located on the Fort Apache Indian Reservation in the White Mountains of Arizona.

Coming from rural Arizona, Kessay has accomplished a great deal for a 21-year-old professional pitcher. His ultimate goal is to lead by example and pursue his dream of playing in major league baseball. Kessay stated: "We all have goals for ourselves. I am focused and train hard daily because no matter what we do professionally we have to grow. My career is not a matter of luck. It is a matter of skill and dedication. Growing myself into a professional athlete is dependent upon myself, my dedication to the sport, my dedication to perfecting my technique and my desire to continue to move forward. I am blessed that every day, I wake up and play baseball. It doesn't get any better than that. I am very proud to say that I play professional baseball, and I am honored that my experience has taken me to places I have never been before."

As an emerging athlete, Kessay hopes to not only become an inspiration to youth on the reservation, but also an inspiration to youth in rural areas. His vision is to become the spark that ignites the flame in the hearts of youth to become who they really want to become, and to demonstrate to youth that he is living proof that hard work, self-determination and focusing on dreams pays off. Coming from a rural and isolated tribal community, Kessay can relate to today's youth, knowing that he shares the same roots, same beginnings, and same struggles. Kessay says: "I hope that I bring a sense of pride to the Fort Apache Indian Reservation, and I hope that my story inspires others."

Photo and interview excerpts courtesy of Rez Media Group.