Head Start staff travel to Washington, D.C. for leadership conference

Head Start staff travel to Washington, D.C. for leadership conference

Last week, a group of Southwest Human Development Head Start and Early Head Start staff and parents traveled to Washington, D.C. to discuss and learn more about the importance of early childhood education and the impact our programs and services have on Arizona’s children and their families. Nina Williams, assistant director of Head Start and Early Head Start at Southwest Human Development recounts her experiences in Washington:

 It was an honor to travel to Washington, D.C. last week with other members of the Southwest Human Development’s Head Start and Early Head Start staff and the parents of children in our program to attend the National Head Start Association Leadership Conference.

The conference, put on each year, gives Head Start staff and parents the opportunity to hear from national Head Start leadership and congressional leaders as well. It’s a small conference, only about 500 people, but the impact is enormous and attendees have the opportunity to meet one-on-one with those leaders and those making the decisions about our children’s future.2016-02-03 14.28.46

This year, speakers shared new early childhood development research and information about big changes coming to Head Start. One of the main messages described a new push to move from half-day to full-day programs. With so many parents working and going to school full time, more families need high quality, full-day early childhood care that goes beyond daycare to include education, health care and family development.

We attended breakout sessions led by Head Start program leaders, including a panel featuring our own director of Head Start, Mindy Zapata. These leaders shared their own success stories, the success stories of others and presented innovative ideas that are shaping the future of early childhood education.

IMG_1931We spent one day during the conference at the U.S. Capitol where we met with Congressman Ruben Gallego (AZ-7) and the staff of Congressman Paul Gosar (AZ-4). We brought along national and state statistics to better explain the need for early childhood funding and how important it is to invest early in our children’s future success. Because of Head Start, children entering kindergarten are less likely to have health problems, less likely to have behavior concerns and less likely to get left behind. Both Congressman Gallego and Congressman Gosar have expressed their incredible support for Head Start and Early Head Start programs.

We were really excited to bring Amber Fleitz to Washington with us! Amber’s daughter is in our Head Start program at Camp Bello Elementary School, and she also serves as a member of our Head Start Policy Council. Amber was able to speak with Head Start and congressional leaders from a first person, “mom” perspective, telling her family’s story and what our early childhood programs have meant to her. It was wonderful for her to attend the conference and bring back the knowledge that she can now share with other parents involved in the program.

To learn more about Head Start, please visit swhd.org/HeadStart.