Celebrating Black History Month – Ronnie Herndon

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By Wassy Tesfa, Chair, Region 9 Head Start Association Board of Directors

February 10, 2021

Over the past 40 years of Head Start, few individuals have brought as much passion for our movement as Mr. Ronnie Herndon. Truly an evangelist for the movement.

In addition, Ronnie has worked in and around, above and beyond Head Start in his local community of Portland, Oregon civil rights activists, in the Halls of Congress, and in corporate board rooms. Ron’s ongoing loyalty to his community was recently on display as he stepped up for his COVID-19 vaccine and featured on Oregon Coronavirus Update. “The infection rate for our community is far higher than it is for the white community, so it’s very personal for me,” he said. “And I think that anything I can do to try to protect myself and others who are around me, I should do that. And getting the vaccine is the first step.”

“Ron Herndon was hard-hitting and passionate about our work. Always a teacher, always a truth-teller, always a promoter of justice, says Edward Condon, R9HSA executive director and NHSA Board Member (2005-2009).

Since 1975, Ron has served as the Director of Albina Head Start in Portland Oregon. He served as the NHSA Chairman, 1993-2013. From Early Childhood to University Professor, Ron Hendon has committed his life to the ideal that education is the key to racial and economic justice. However, Ron has frequently pivoted his work as an activist in Portland as well. In 1984, Nike proposed to open stores in the urban core and criticism started to bubble up regarding Nike’s relations to the Black Community. Herndon reached out to Nike and through a series of event and created an enduring relationship. Ron Herndon has served as a mentor to many over the live of his career. Damon Carson, NHSA current Chairman and Head Start Director from San Diego’s Neighborhood House Association says, “Ron is a friend that shares his knowledge and wisdom with those who have the courage to listen.”

In 2016, UCLA’s Anderson School of Management featured Ron Herndon. Complementing Herndon’s appreciation for Head Start’s community impact they quote him to say, “I know it has a tremendous economic impact on these families,” says Herndon. “Also, these are women and men who have children. When they come on board with us, they have excellent health care (benefits). Also, our teaching assistants are among the highest paid, other than a union shop like a school district or community college. So, (these positions) have an immediate impact on the economy of the households.”

This month – let us celebrate Mr. Ronnie Herndon.

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