The Feeling of Hope
I’ll never forget the first day of pre-school for my daughter Ashley. I was nervous and excited for my little girl’s first big day! She had just turned 4 years old that May 1994, and there she was in her new school clothes and backpack waiting for the pre-school bus. I was only 22, married and a young mom of 2, her baby brother Tony had just come home from the hospital that August.
At that time in our lives, we lived in a single-wide trailer in Newman Lake and were just trying to make it through the challenges that come with being a young family. We didn’t have much and struggled to get by month to month but we had a lot of love and seemed to manage a simple life. One day, when I was outside sitting on the porch, watching Ashley play in the yard as her baby brother slept, a spunky little lady came waving to me over the fence. I didn’t recognize her as one of my neighbors, but she seemed very friendly and kind. She started asking me about my daughter. How old she was and if I had ever thought about preschool for her. At first, I was hesitant, but the word pre-school caught my attention and we started visiting. I wish I could remember her name, but she told me she was from the school district, and had I ever heard of Head Start of ECEAP?
That’s where it all began…
I didn’t even know that my children could go to preschool. I remember wanting them to go but they were SO expensive, and money was not something we had a lot of. After chatting with the friendly lady, I remember being excited to think that my daughter could actually go to pre-school! I had no idea that these types of resources were out there and available to me and my little family. She said the program included meals and snacks, AND additional school supplies and clothes if needed. (That’s how Ashley got her new snow coat that winter.) The lady left me some paperwork, said a friendly goodbye, and walked away.
As I watched her leave… I remember feeling, Hope.
I’ll never forget the first Parent Event I attended. It was a craft night where I got to make a wreath decoration for my kitchen, something that I had been wanting to do but couldn’t afford it, and they had ALL the craft supplies! They even fed us a yummy dinner! And how could I forget, we had pumpkins on our porch that Halloween because our first field trip was to the pumpkin patch. I remember feeling so lucky, and SO happy! As I got more comfortable and Ashley settled into class, I was introduced to Policy Council. I remember feeling so worthy and validated as a parent. I felt like my voice mattered. It felt good to be a part of a process that people actually cared about and that what I was doing was making a difference!
It was a great experience for me and my family.
Those days seem like a long time ago, but I have never forgotten them. ECEAP changed our life. Truly, in many ways it did. It taught me how to advocate for what I believed in, to be involved in my children’s school experience, and to always look for more resources and opportunities. The only way Ashley was waiting for the bus to go to preschool that day is because a Family Service Advocate from the ECEAP program was going door to door in a little trailer park, asking if families had heard of Head Start or ECEAP.
Today, my children Ashley 31, and Tony 28, have both graduated with college degrees. My little girl Ashley, that same little girl that rode the bus to her ECEAP pre-school has graduated from Whitworth University with her Master’s Degree and is now a School Counselor. Even I too went back to school and have graduated with a B.A. degree from Whitworth University. I have made my career out of being an Early Learning Professional and have worked for Head Start & ECEAP in some capacity for over 20 years! I can’t help but think about how different things would be if that Family Service Advocate never came and waved at me over the fence that day? Over my career, I have now knocked on many doors doing recruitment for our early learning programs and I always think of what a full-circle moment it is to be doing this amazing work still to this day!
I am thankful and grateful for the continued commitment that our Early Learning Team provides to families and kids. Also, to businesses like Rural Resources that believe in the early childhood and family experience. I am proud to be a part of such an incredible team of people that do so much for our communities. I believe in this work!
I am eternally grateful to be a part of something so meaningful and impactful for families and children.
It’s all about connection!
Success Story By:
Head Start Parent, Family & Community Engagement Coordinator
ABCD NE Tri-County Outreach Coordinator
NE WA Early Childhood Program
Rural Resources Community Action