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Sandra I. Espinel

–  Sandra I. Espinel, former Head Start parent and current grantee specialist, Orlando, FL

Sandra I. Espinel

My name is Sandra I. Espinel and I have worked with the Head Start program for over 26 years. I began working as a volunteer in 1988 when I enrolled my daughter, Alexandra I. Espinel, in the Head Start program in Orlando, FL. In 1989, I began working as a teacher's aide for the Orange County Commissioner Head Start in Orlando, FL. As a parent, I am grateful to have had this program in our lives. It offered a comprehensive early education for both, my daughter and my youngest son. I learned, early on, that Head Start not only provided services to the children, but it also provided services to the parents. Head Start empowered me as a parent to be successful in life. I participated as the president of the parent committee and also was a member of the Policy Council.

The Orange County Head Start staff not only encouraged me, but they gave me an opportunity to start an education, which allowed me to thrive. With the support of my daughter's teachers, Ms. Loretta Alexis and Ms. Minnie Shropshire and the education manager, which at the time was Ms. Ollie Johnson, I proudly moved up the chain as the following: volunteer; substitute teacher's aide; teacher aide; teacher's assistant; teacher; center manager, and the quality assurance coordinator. Currently, I am a grantee specialist with the Region IV Head Start Training and Technical Assistance network. I provide training and technical assistance in the area of program and design management to eight different states, ensuring they are compliant in the Head Start management systems and procedures. At the beginning of my career, when I started working in Head Start as a teacher's aide, I was encouraged to apply for a teacher position and that's when I completed my Child Development Associate (CDA) Credential™.

While working full time as a Head Start center manager, I earned my bachelor's of arts in public administration at the University of Central Florida. I then began working toward my next educational goal, and in 2006 I earned my master's degree at Webster University in management and leadership. I am currently working toward my doctorate in early childhood education. I also currently teach as a professor at the Ana G. Mendez University, the only dual language university in the state of Florida. I have been there since 2010. The Head Start program has not only been there for my children, but they have also been there for me—allowing me to succeed, further than I ever dreamed possible. Thank you, Head Start!