Monday, September 27, 2010
Parents in Action in Washington DC
WSA took five of our Parent Ambassadors to Washington DC for the National Head Start Association leadership conference, and to visit their elected officials and advocate for Head Start and Early Head Start. They did a fabulous job, meeting with both our Senators (Sen. Patty Murray is in the picture above), 8 of our 9 Representatives, and the head of the Office of Head Start!
April Ritter, Head Start Parent Ambassador from McCleary, WA, shared the following thoughts:
I want to write this, while the memory is still fresh in my brain, and before the overwhelming reality of life sets back in to my everyday routines. I just returned home from my trip to Washington DC to attend the National Head Start Leadership Institute. I was selected as 1 of 5 parents to attend the conference. It was quite possibly the most amazing week of my life. 5 days of learning, understanding more early learning issues, and advocating for children not only in my state, but those across the nation. I met Senator Patty Murray, Senator Maria Cantwell, and got to help them understand a little bit better how cuts that our government is trying to make to our state and federal budgets, will affect so many families. My fellow PA's and I, helped put a face to those services that are on the chopping block.
One friend was a teenage mom, who had no idea how to manage a checkbook, a household and a baby at the age of 16 while trying to finish school. With the help of the Early Head Start program, she finished high school, got her AA and is now working on her BA. She is a small business owner, and the proud mom of 4 kids!
Another was a recovering addict who spent over 20 years in and out of incarceration. He has now turned his life around, is a single dad and has helped start a Dad's group in his local town. He just recently became a homeowner and has a 3.75 GPA in his AA program. These are just a few of his accomplishments.
There were 3 more stories from my fellow PA's, that tugged at your heart strings, but I would be here all day trying to recap it all. I got to tell the story of how Head Start helped diagnose Lauryn with hearing loss that was fixable, and not just a speech impediment. And how she no longer needs any special services because of the help and resources she had access to as a Head Start student.
In our state, the Governor just proposed to cut the Working Connections Childcare Program. This will affect thousands of children and families in our state. We got the chance to let them know, that by reducing these subsidies, it will have an adverse effect on our economy. Those working poor in our state, will be turned in to unemployed workers and forced to draw from other state resources such as unemployment, TANF, Food Stamps and Medical. It doesn't make sense to not be PREVENTATIVE. Helping our lawmakers understand that we are REAL faces and not just numbers, was what we were there for.
I truly believe that our voices were heard in every office we visited.
Not only did we visit Capitol Hill, we gave a presentation and helped facilitate another one on Advocacy, and getting parents involved in early learning issues. The more people that are aware that from birth to 5 is the most important part of a child's life, and what they can do to make those years the best, the better our future generations will be set up for success. I could go on and on. But I won't. I just want to share the video of my telling my story about Lauryn. It is emotional. Yes, I cried. Because if it weren't for this program, I don't know that my daughter would be the child she is today. A loud, boisterous, talkative, SMART girl who started kindergarten ahead of the curve, because of the comprehensive services and amazing preschool experience she had through Head Start.
Some of my friends don't agree with these issues because of political belief, some of ignorance, and some of just plain disagreeing. But I think anyone who listens to any of these stories will agree that to not support this program and other early learning programs like it, is just plain stupid. Children should be our priority, not just an afterthought.
Click here to see April tell her daughter Lauren's Head Start Story.