A Head Start success story

Head Start Success StoryAngie Tipton’s son, Joseph, used to be shy and standoffish, and his speech problems caused him and his parents no end of frustration.

“He’d just get so mad when you couldn’t understand,” says his mother.

All that started to change after Angie enrolled Joseph, then 3, into Head Start, a federal program provided locally by Rural Resources Community Action.

RRCA is a one-stop resource for individuals and families in need in rural Northeast Washington. In addition to early-childhood programs (Head Start), we help people with housing, employment and training, senior services, transportation, energy and rental assistance, family counseling and support, and other needs.

Angie – who had come to us for rental assistance and help with energy costs – decided to sign her only child up for Head Start because she wanted him to socialize and learn with other children, but couldn’t afford to put him into private preschool.

Head Start is more comprehensive than preschool, and it’s free. In addition to language-rich preschool classes, the program provides qualified low-income and disabled children and their families with health education and screenings and parent training and support.

Angie noticed a change in her son right away. He became more verbal and social. He seemed a much happier child as he brimmed with excitement about the friends he was making and the songs and letters he was learning.

Through Head Start, Angie and her husband, Michael, connected with other families and received expert advice in classes on parenting strategies and child development.

They also found out about their son’s speech and developmental delays in time to get him enrolled in the Chewelah School District Preschool, a special- education program that gives the 5-year-old the intensive one-on-one help he needs to be ready for kindergarten.

“Joseph is learning new things every day,” says Angie. “He’s really grown academically by leaps and bounds even in this short time. I’m so proud of him!”

Angie shudders to think where her son would be now were it not for Head Start. “He probably would have been so far behind, they would have held him back,” she says.

There’s also a lot more peace in the household now that Joseph is better able to communicate, adds Angie, who is also stepmom to her husband’s teenage son.

“We no longer have to guess at what he’s trying to tell us,” she says. “He got really good at pointing, but now he doesn’t do that. He uses his words.”While Joseph was finding his voice, Angie also found hers.

At the urging of Rural Resources Family Services Advocate Bev Wilkerson, Angie agreed to represent Chewelah parents on the Head Start Policy Council, which makes policy, staffing and curriculum decisions. Late last year, she was elected vice chair.

“Bev saw something in me that I didn’t see, and she was right,” says Angie, who has since become involved in a grant-funded project to reduce poverty in the Chewelah area.

“I’ve learned an awful lot,” she says. “Plus I’ve developed leadership skills that just weren’t there before. When I first started, I had no idea how to speak up and push the issue. I’ve really grown legs on that.”

Like mother, like son.