Monday, November 17, 2014

50 Years of Head Start

by Sara Slaughter, Director, Education Program

In honor of Head Start’s 50th Anniversary and Head Start Awareness Month, the National Head Start Association highlighted one of its alumni each weekday in October. They began the month with Head Start’s current learners and conclude the celebration with the Head Start Class of 1965. The alumni stories exemplified the short-term and long-term benefits Head Start has provided our nation’s most vulnerable children and families. You can view all blog posts at:

Most of us will celebrate our big 5-0 by sharing memories and stories with friends and colleagues. Head Start is no different. In honor of its 50 year anniversary, the National Head Start Association is sharing stories of Head Start Alums like Aida Conroy. In her endearing and informative blog, Aida shares how Head Start nurtured her from a curious toddler, to a young professional. She is now a member of the prestigious Teach for America and teaching the next wave of Head Start students. In a time of skepticism about government programs, isn't it refreshing to celebrate a program putting vulnerable children on a path to success! The following is an excerpt from NHSA’s blog, enjoy!

More Than Milk Cartons

by Aida Conroy

Aida Conroy, a Head Start alum, is currently a 2013 Teach For America corps member teaching at Casa Infantil, a Head Start center of Casa Central in her family’s neighborhood in Chicago.

Twenty milk cartons arrive in my Head Start classroom for breakfast, lunch, and snack each day. For petite, clumsy fingers, still building fine motor skills, these cartons are quite difficult to open. All my students know the milk carton rule: in our classroom we attempt to open our cartons independently at least once. My children try any new way they can cook up! Only after trying can a student ask a friend or teacher for assistance.

Because they face this challenge three times each day, my students have come up with ingenious strategies to open these cartons--far more interesting than my own pinch and pull method. There is “the pinky-pull,” where my students dig their tiniest finger to create a hole before ripping the opening; there is the brute force approach, when students use both hands to push up on the carton; and my personal favorite is when students pull off all four tabs to create square cups.

It is one of my favorite parts of the day, watching them think through new techniques as their fumbling fingers push and pull at the carton openings. This reminds me of when I conquered the same task.

The accomplishment of opening my milk carton for the first time by myself is one of my earliest memories. It happened at Head Start when I was in preschool. I used one hand to grip the bottom of the carton while my thumb and index finger pushed and pulled the tabs. I shrieked with delight when I was able to pull out the spout. Just like my students, I had tried and failed to open my milk carton each day, three times a day for months. The pleasure of this accomplishment made my chocolate milk seem as if it had never tasted so good.

This little moment from my classroom illuminates for me how my own experience attending Head Start as a child influences my hopes and dreams for the Head Start students I teach today. While many of us can recall the delight in motor-skill mastery, it’s the so-called ‘soft’-skills I particularly enjoy teaching. I attempt to equip my students with the most crucial skills for life--the ability to give and receive love, to respect others, to speak from the heart, to listen intently, to explore and discover, to fail and always to try again. Teaching these social emotional skills makes me most proud to be a Head Start teacher.

To continue reading Aida’s interesting Head Start blog please follow this link:

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