With the 56th “birthday” of Head Start on Tuesday, past and present participants are recounting how the early education program positively impacted their lives.
In its more than five decades of service, Head Start has changed the lives of millions of children and families just like Ericka Rojas and her daughter, Ella.
Just four months after her daughter was born, the Palmdale mother had already decided to give her infant an early advantage by enrolling her in Child Care Resource Center’s Early Head Start program.
Ella is now 2 years old, but she was just four months old when she started EHS through CCRC, a decision Ericka made after seeing how the Head Start program benefited her 4-year-old son.
“I was a little hesitant to enroll her in a program so young because I didn’t start her brother that young, but the experience I’ve had at this center and with the teachers, they’ve been amazing,” Ericka says. “You can see her development at such a young age – using her words and climbing. She’s grown and continues to improve because of the program.”
At just 2 years old, Ella can draw a circle on paper using a pencil or marker. Ericka says her daughter can now identify the letter “A,” as well.
Ericka credits her daughter’s steady development to her EHS teachers, who despite teaching virtually due to the pandemic have created thorough lesson plans that are easy to follow at home.
“We do distance learning and meet once per week,” Ericka says. “Even though we’re not in the classroom studying, she’s still getting that time to explore. Her teachers plan the activities based on her development and milestones. They provide us with blocks, patterns and shapes, crayons, markers, scissors, paper, books and any other things we might need like diapers and wipes.”
The lesson plans might include songs, art projects, or physical activities that are all designed to supplement Ella’s current stage of development.
“She can sing Baby Shark now and some other songs,” Ericka says.
The transition to remote learning initially concerned Ericka but she says her daughter’s dedicated teachers put her mind at ease.
“I have a good relationship with all her teachers,” Ericka says. “Her current teacher is always calling to check in and see if I need anything and focuses on my daughter individually. The attention they give the children is great.”
For families who may be considering enrolling their child in EHS or HS, Ericka says it’s never too early to engage your child in learning. She says parents and caregivers who create a partnership with the teachers will see their child benefit the most.
“It’s a team effort to have child in program like this,” Ericka says. “I don’t look at them as baby sitter, they’re actually focused on the academic part and having my daughter explore the materials. If I apply these lessons at home, my daughter can learn and grow because of the materials the teachers provided me.”
Head Start is actively enrolling new students. To be eligible for CCRC’s Head Start program, families must qualify under the Federal Income Poverty guidelines. Income requirements may be waived for special circumstance or disability, but must not exceed a specific amount.
Click here to apply for CCRC Head Start.