Success Stories: We Make a Difference

Judy Villalobos, Head Start Alumni:

Judy grew up in White Salmon, WA in a small apartment with her two parents both from Mexico and three other siblings. Head Start was the stepping stone Judy needed.  She credits Head Start for getting her off to kindergarten prepared. Ultimately, it led her to be the first in her family to go to college. She expresses that being enrolled in Head Start has built a foundation for her and her family to move out of poverty and create positive pathways for a brighter future. Through Head Start, Judy and her family were provided the resources needed to become connected with the community, which in turn helped them attain the skills necessary to move ahead in life. Her father now runs his own business. Currently living in Oregon, Judy is studying her Masters in Social Work at Plum University and working with a Head Start program, happily giving back towards the community as Head Start had given the opportunity to her.

You can watch Judy’s personal testimonial at:

Dionna Simpson, Head Start Mother (Video):

Dionna daughters went to Head Start which provided structure for her daughters; having them learn and understand routines and help with transitions at home. Head Start brought out their inner personalities and creativity and now they become excited when coming across new activities. For Dionna herself, Head Start has given her the skills to be productive and learn to focus her attention in school while being able to take care of family. Dionna has goals of opening up her own non-profit mentorship program: assisting challenged high school students and helping them make connections with successful individuals in professional careers, and to guide them through positive pathways towards specific job markets which will lead them to success while helping students stay on track with college courses.

You can watch Dionna’s personal testimonial at:

Chanel Ogburn-Robinson, Head Start Mother (Video):

Chanel’s son is a 1st year student in Head Start at Roosevelt Elementary in Tacoma, WA. Through Head Start, Chanel has seen her son improve in his letter, number and shape recognition and sees his continuous growth every day. Prior to Head Start, he was unable to distinguish the basic alphabet, and now, he is writing his name, working through his letters and numbers, and learning to socialize with peers in a positive manner. Chanel has been receiving continual support from family service workers and family service advocate, who have connected her and her son with the resources needed for their educational services. Also as a student at UW Tacoma, Chanel expresses her gratitude of Head Start providing additional resources for help and tutoring and working with her when she needed the extra time to be in school.

You can  watch Chanel’s personal testimonial at:

Heather Riley, Head Start Mother (Video):     

Head Start has provided a source of security, stability and consistency for Heather and her family; through this program, the support and resources given were not only for her children but for the family as a whole to move forward in life successfully. She became deeply associated to people through Head Start (staff and parents) who have helped her find her voice in the community and able to find a place where she felt accepted, valued, and her opinion mattered. Heather has learned to be more than just her children’s mother, but find herself and be able to “have a say in my children’s education”. Head Start has provided a foundation for her 2 children, both in Early Head Start and Head Start, building the skills necessary for literacy and effective communication and their mental, physical, emotional, social skills alike. Being a part of Head Start has taught her family the importance of budgeting finances, creating healthy eating habits, and having strong successful relationships amongst family members. Head Start has also allowed her and her husband to become active members in the community, participating in the parent committee and policy council.

You can watch Heather’s personal testimonial at:

Patti J. Henderson Baines, Head Start Mother:

Patti Henderson had first heard about Head Start from friend, 32 years ago while living in the small town of Burlington, WA. Patti’s first son had number of health issues which impacted his development and as a mother, had no resources or experience to help her son overcome his challenges. After contacting Head Start, she received immediate assistance from a home visitor who came to her house. From that first interaction with the home visitor she began to learn about the child development domains, which helped her set the necessary goals to work on with her son to prepare him for academic success. She herself learned the skills for leadership, advocacy and build the confidence to meet daily challenges. Since then, Patti has become an active member in the community serving as a Policy Council Chairperson, Western Vice Chairperson of Head Start Parent Association, local Community Action Agency’s Board of Directors, 3 years as a representative on the Energy Assistance Council for WA State, and represented low-income families for the UW Training and Technical Assistance Board. She was also the first in her family to complete a college degree. Head Start has taught Patti to become an engaged, responsible and educated not only for the growth of her children but as an individual citizen herself. Patti’s 3 other children were enrolled in Head Start and now her children have grown to succeed in their professions from welding/fishing, architecture, and working in the educational technology and medical field.

You can read Patti’s full testimony at:

Joeann Crafton, Head Start Mother

Being involved in domestic violence situation, Joeann Crafton almost ended the life of herself and all 3 of her sons before receiving help and support from the staff at Education Opportunities for Children and Families. Joeann was introduced to counseling, support and parenting groups and learned to overcome her dark past. She was able to start her life over with all the encouragement, support and opportunities provided by the EOCF staff and have since then become a current staff member at the EOCF for the past 13 years. Joeann hopes to help current and future families going through similar situations she has experienced. Her children have all grown up and have created families of their own, her sons being responsible and loving fathers and husbands.

You can read Joeann’s full testimony at:

Two WSA Parent Ambassadors, Victoria Hilt from Bremerton, and John Calvin Jones from Tacoma, were featured speakers telling their stories at the National Head Start Association Stops the Cuts Rally in Washington DC.   Watch them tell their stories:



Many of our parents have shared their videos and written stories here at the NHSA 27 Million Windows site.


Tiffany Simkins, Lewis County Head Start/EHS, Chehalis WA

As a busy working mom Head Start has made it possible for children, such as my own, to have quality preschool as well as be kindergarten ready. I became a mom for the first time when I was 16. Traditional high school no longer worked for me and my daughter, so I transferred to an alternative high school program in my local community college. I think that was my first taste of a program the not only cared about my daughter meeting her developmental milestones, but me meeting my milestones as well. In a sense, I was a baby too. I worked hard and with that program graduated high school a year ahead of my traditional graduating class. I was able to start on my AA degree and get a job to support my daughter because of that program.

My financial situation was much better when my oldest daughter was preschool age and I was able to pay for a private preschool program for her. As the economy has taken a dive, so has my income. My husband and I own a roofing company and as you may imagine people aren't looking to replace their roofs. Our main income comes from repairs, which isn't much income at all. Head Start has given my children and family the quality preschool that will make my children ready for the kindergarten through twelfth grade system.

My son, Rodney (age 6) graduated from the program two years ago, and started 1st grade this year. He is the top reader in his class. He is reading above grade level and his math and science skills are exceptional. My daughter, Leigha (age 5) graduated from the Lewis County Head Start last year, and she continually amazes her father and I. She is reading and writing and has started basic math skills. She started Kindergarten this year and her teacher told me she could tell Leigha had an amazing preschool experience. Academically she is right where she should be, but she also has wonderful people skills. I know I sound like abragging momma, but how can't I be? Lewis County Head Start has given me so much! I could never say how grateful I am for what they have done for my children my family and myself.

I’ve gained so much knowledge, and numerous skills that I will take with me for the rest of my life. I’m gaining skills on a daily basis. I’m currently my child’s classroom representative to Policy Counsel; the Lewis County Head Start Policy Counsel Chairperson; Washington State Association of Head Start and ECEAP Lewis County Representative; and a Washington State Association of Head Start and ECEAP Parent Ambassador. All of these positions were made available to me because the other parents, staff, managers and director at LCHS believed that I could. They raised me up and made me realize my voice. I won’t pretend I have the strongest and the loudest voice, but I’m a far cry from where I was at my first parent meeting. And I owe it all to Head Start.

I’m on schedule to complete my BA in April of 2011. I’m a one time 16 year old mom, who will have a BA in Law and Human Development. All because a program believed that I was capable, and they made me believe it too.

Thank You Head Start, and one day, one way I’ll be able to find a way to repay this program for all they have done.

April Ritter Terry, ESD 113 Sound to Harbor Head Start/ECEAP, Elma WA

When my daughter Lauryn reached about a year old, she still wasn't talking much. She was not saying many words, but she talked a great deal. NO ONE could understand her but me. Half the time her own dad couldn't understand her. We spent many hours trying to decipher and translate what she was saying to family members. She mumbled a lot, and her words were garbled. My oldest daughter was speaking in full sentences by the time she was 1, so this was a big difference for me. I know people always tell you not to compare your children, but this was very hard to do. It was such a drastic difference, that I started to wonder if something was wrong. I took Lauryn to the doctor, and during her well child exams, I always brought up to her provider that I was concerned about her speech. Many times, my oldest daughter was with me, and when the provider would ask Lauryn a question, Ashley (the oldest) would always answer for her. The provider kept chalking it up to the oldest talking for her, and assured me it was just a normal part of sibling interaction. Because Ashley spoke for her, the provider just assured me this is why Lauryn wasn't talking. Two years went by, and this was ALWAYS a concern for me. I always brought it up, and was always given the same answer - it was because her sister spoke for her. Around this time, I enrolled Lauryn in the ECEAP program at our local school. She had turned 3 and was eligible. She went through the preschool screening, and during part of that, was interviewed by the Speech Therapist. The Therapist noticed a delay in her, and noticed that she had a hard time pronouncing certain syllables. This was put in her file, and Lauryn started school in the fall of 2007.

This video was taken of Lauryn around the time she started preschool for the first time at age 3. She is singing a song, and out of all the words, I can only identify a few.

Her teachers paid attention to the mumbling and the inattention she had. Because I had other people observing her besides family, they were noticing a delay in speech as well. Her sister wasn't around during preschool time, so it was much easier to see there was a problem. The teachers brought to my attention their concerns, and I told them I had thought something wasn't right for a long time. The ECEAP program provided a meeting with a Speech Therapist and we proceeded with an evaluation and an IEP. Lauryn was referred to a hearing specialist as a precautionary step. My doctor had NEVER ordered a referral or an evaluation. I was laughed at when I brought my concerns to them.

Through the referral from the ECEAP speech therapist, we discovered at a hearing test, that Lauryn was 75% deaf in one ear, and 25% in the other!! My daughter was almost 4 years old by the time this was discovered! The specialist explained that the reason Lauryn wasn't speaking correctly was because she had a massive amount of fluid on her ears, and suffered from Estachian Tube Dysfunction, a genetic problem that causes the tubes to not grow properly and drain fluid from the ears. She was not speaking correctly because to her, everyone sounded like they were underwater. She was just relaying it back the way she heard it. The doctors assured me it was an easy fix. Lauryn underwent surgery, and had tubes placed in her ears. She returned back to school, I informed the ECEAP staff what we had discovered and they re-evaluated Lauryn's IEP to include Speech Therapy for at least 20 minutes a week, if not more. She continued with her Speech Therapy, and we saw great strides in her speech, and her education.

In the Fall of 2009, our situation changed once again. I was no longer working, and this made a huge difference in where my child would attend preschool. During the summer of 2009, I walked in to our local Head Start to apply for a position. This was the same Head Start my oldest daughter attended, so I was familiar with the staff. Many of the same teachers and faces, I had dealt with 3 years prior. I inquired about the waiting list, because of missing the registration deadlines I knew there had to be one. I was told that I could put Lauryn on the waiting list, but through a conversation, I learned that were completely full except for one spot they were holding for a student with a disability, or IEP. When I let the staff know that my child already had an IEP in place, she was placed in the last spot for that classroom. This was about 2 weeks before classes were to start. It was a complete godsend, and a perfect example of being in the right place at the right time that she was blessed with this slot in the Elma Head Start program. I was so excited for her to attend! Lauryn continued with her Speech Therapy, and the combination of that therapy, and getting her hearing finally under control, today, you could probably not even tell that she once had a Speech Delay. She can write her name, knows all of her ABC's and 123's, and is completely ready for Kindergarten this Fall. Lauryn's IEP was re-evaluated and with assistance from our home school Speech Therapist, it was determined that an IEP was no longer a necessity for her, and that she is right on target for her benchmarks.

If it were not for the help I received in diagnosing my daughter with a disability, I fear she would have started school unable to hear, afraid of learning, with people not being able to understand her. It would have probably taken another 3 years longer than it did, and that was already 3 years too long. Instead of starting Kindergarten with a disability or a delay, we were able to fix the problem before she became another statistic. We were able to save her school district the financial commitment it would have taken from their Special Ed department after she started school this fall.

Lauryn is now a completely well adjusted, smart, TALKATIVE, little girl, who is ready to start Kindergarten in the fall of 2010 with no barriers to her education. She can hear and now she can speak, and is ready to start learning even more.

This is Lauryn singing a song today, at age 5.

I have learned that with the right tools in hand, I could be the voice for my daughter, I had known all along that something wasn't right with her. The staff at all of the centers Lauryn attended, listened to me, and helped me figure out how to take action. With the tools I received from being a parent in the Head Start program, I learned to not doubt myself and my instincts. The education and information I have received as a parent in this program, have increased my knowledge tenfold, of simple everyday life things. I have learned how to be a better mother, a more knowledgeable adult, and most importantly an involved parent in my children's lives.

Kylee Allen , Skagit/Islands Head Start

I wanted to take the time to share with you my success story with Head Start. 

I have been a part of the Head Start program for the last four years adn it really has helped make my family a better and stronger family unit.  My daugher started with Early Head Start and moved to Head Start with a major speech delay.  By the time she finished Head Start her self-confidence and her speaking abilities were 100% improved.  She was prepared to start kindergarten with high confidence.  I am a stronger mother due to Head Start.

Andrea Nelson, Benton-Franklin Head Start

Shae-Lynn is a walking miracle of Head Start's miracles.

She was a special needs child who almost died at 3 from seizures and a medication that almost killed her curing her from her seizures. She almost stroked out with her blood pressure at 170/140 and had to be medivaced up to Sacred Heart in Spokane. She had Cushings Syndrome, her brain had atrophied, and her heart had hypertrophied.

When she reached age 5, the school district had planned for her to head into a learning disabled classroom for K-2. They had me go and "view" it. There was autistic, mentally disabled children etc. I told them that it was unacceptable to me that Shae-Lynn only needed to "catch up" and that her doctors said that her brain was 100% normal and seizure-free now, and she completely emulated whatever child she was around. I really thought that the best environment for her was Headstart.

So I battled them myself because my daughter needed this so badly. The school district was afraid to say that they had "no program" appropriate for her cause of the legal ramifications. Finally, they just gave in and let her stay at Benton Franklin Head Start the extra year, and it was the difference between night and day. She was a different child. The one year she was a safety danger who ran the second the door wasn't guarded and stood on top of sinks in the bathroom. The next year made all the difference! She is now in second grade and she is a fully functioning child with slight assistance from resource room. She looks like Dakota Fanning, and she is learning to read, and she can turn cartwheel after cartwheel without stopping. She is so helpful to everyone, and no one can tell she has had so many setbacks in life.

Nancie Surber, Puget Sound ESD Head Start/Tacoma Public Schools Head Start

I was three years old, when my mother enrolled me in the local Head Start program in Grayland, Washington. I don't remember much about that experience other than the memories of free choice time in the housekeeping area and painting whales and fishing boats at the art easel, because my father was a commercial fisherman. I graduated from Head Start the following spring and knew how to read within the year, thanks to Head Start.

When I was a young mother and my husband didn't make much money, I too enrolled my twin daughters in the Local Head Start program in the Franklin Pierce Head Start program through PSESD #111. From there I volunteered weekly in their classrooms and eventually signed up to be a Parent Intern.

Through the intern program I learned so much and grew beyond my wildest dreams. I learned who I was, what I wanted to become and how to interact with my children. I completed the internship two years later with a degree in Early Childhood Education and Socila Service Mental Health. With a goal to be a Head Start Teacher/Family Service Worker. That goal became a reality in October 1996 in the Tacoma Public Schools Head Start Program. I have worked for both Head Start and Early Head Start through TPS and PSESD 111, for the past 12 years in some compasity or another. I have worked in all the classroom positions as well as the family service worker pieces. I have blossomed like a flower in the sun with the help and encouragement that I recieved from my Head Start family.

I tell every family that I work with that Head Start has made such an impact in my life that I wish to give back the same spark that was given to me, through them. I have encouraged several parents to participate in Policy Council and they too, through this experience have grown. Head Start not only gives the children a better advancement in their educational career. It helps provide a positive and lasting impact on the parents and families with whom they touch. Please keep the flowers blooming and blossoming in the lives of Head Start families.

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