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Step Forward Head Start parent & board member speaks in Washington D.C.

Theresa Carter, A Step Forward Head Start parent and board member, was one of a few individuals from across the country selected to speak at the Head Start Breakfast in Washington D.C. recently.

The event, the Winter Leadership Institute, was held on Capitol Hill.

“My initial connection with a Head Start program goes back to when I enrolled my now 29-year-old daughter,” she said. “As a divorced parent then, I was struggling financially, trying to find work while going to school. And I am thankful I was able to enroll her in Head Start. The quality of education she received prepared her for kindergarten and beyond.”

Carter spoke in front of a few hundred people, sharing how she enrolled each of her children into Head Start over the years and saw each one develop their social, cognitive and emotional skills successfully, despite having a background of trauma. While her children were enrolled, she said she leaned on Step Forward’s Head Start staff to learn about toilet training, how to address sleep issues, picky eating and challenging behaviors.

I have always been able to work with my children’s teachers and form a strong partnership to address such difficulties,” she said in front of the crowd.

Carter remembered thinking her oldest daughter was ready for kindergarten. She had encouraged the school board to test her daughter, so she could start elementary school early, but Head Start teachers urged her to wait another year. Carter said she didn’t understand the importance of that decision at the time, but found the teachers were right. Her daughter blossomed in the year that followed.

“That showed me that I could trust Head Start’s judgment concerning my child,” she said. “I couldn’t afford to put her in the top [center] but she received top level education.”

Carter has served as on Step Forward’s policy council for the last four years. She is a parent-committee member and chair for Step Forward, a parent engagement volunteer, and currently serves as a board member for Step Forward. She is also a parent ambassador for the Ohio Head Start Association, which has allowed her to travel to a variety of conferences advocating for Head Start programs. Most recently, she has encouraged nationwide support for Head Start staff recruitment and retention.

“There are children waiting to be served while classrooms are closed,” she said. “These are immediate needs we must address!”

Step Forward is one of the many agencies across the country that has been experiencing an ongoing need for educational staff. As of February 6th, the agency had about 100 vacancies among its early childhood education programs.

“For me, Head Start means family. It means growth. It means love. That has been my experience. In the past few years, I have learned so much about the Head Start program, and because of my experiences and learning, I love this program and I want every child in need to have a Head Start education experience,” Carter concluded.

You can watch and listen to Theresa Carter here:

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