Friday, Sep. 8th 2017

Standing up for Head Start no matter where you are

By Tameka Henry, Regional 9 Head Start Association Parliamentarian 



Wherever you are standing—you need to lead.

That has been a guiding principle for me—especially from the time my now teenage daughter was enrolled in Head Start 10 years ago and as a young parent I realized the challenge of being the best parent I could be.

As I grew into my own power as an adult, I discovered leadership begins at home—by being a good parent. The first and most important job of any advocate is to lead your family—to teach and learn the skills of open and honest communication. From what I learned through Head Start, I helped my children to be problem solvers, innovators and cheerleaders of the peers. For me—as much as for them—I said to always speak truth and never let the power of others define your beliefs.

But folks need to do more: The obvious opportunity is in your school or in your community. For me, that place was Head Start where my two daughters were enrolled. I realized that as a participant, I and my children were consumers of Head Start’s services—and to support them, to improve them—to preserve them, I needed to act.

Region 9 Head Start Association’s Ed Condon recently said it well: “We are faced with the reality of not only having to be educators—but being cheerleaders as well to survive—to lead the charge.”

I have learned not to wait for an invitation or permission to take charge. Many times, I have stepped up —when others felt uncomfortable and even when I felt uncomfortable—I have engaged to lead parent committees at my children’s schools in North Las Vegas. 

And so over the years, I have been involved in the Head Start agency parent committee and policy councils. I have been active in the Nevada state Head Start Association, the Region 9 HSA and the National Head Start Association. I have worked to promote and protect Head Start’s funding and have raised thousands of dollars for our national advocacy and communications campaign—Dollar Per Child.

I do this not to burnish my resume nor for kudos or recognition. I simply believe that all of us in Head Start need to shoulder that responsibility to advocate for our beloved program—locally, regionally and nationally. For me, it’s a lifelong commitment of advocating for community change—every day, every place.

Our Head Start community has the opportunity to come together Sept. 27 in Washington, D.C. for the Families Unite for Head Start Rally and Hill Day. If you have the means to attend the rally, I urge you to consider doing so. There’s even a special Parents As Leaders training program the day previous that will help parents get ready to advocate for Head Start in front of senators, representatives and other officials.

A public event on Capitol Mall is a fine way to draw attention to a cause—and under the shadows of our great presidential memorials certainly rewarding and thrilling for participants. Sitting down and talking to congressional representatives will demonstrate what the rally will make visible: Head Start is effective, popular and necessary. This is a critical moment for Head Start with the threat of flat funding, which means a real cut to the programs and proposed block granting. We need to be united.

So, no matter if you are standing in the rally on Sept. 27 or at home contacting elected officials, you can be a leader—advocating for children who will be the next generation of Americans—and by your example, our next generation of leaders.


Tameka Henry is the chair of Acelero Learning Clark County, Board of Directors, based in Las Vegas, Nev.

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The Vision

All children, regardless of their circumstance at birth, deserve a full and prosperous life.

The Mission

  • Support high-impact Head Start programs for children and adults by creating opportunities for collaboration, networking and information sharing.
  • Unite with state and national Head Start organizations to ensure regulatory and budget outcomes that support our work.
  • Champion the message that every child and family who succeeds makes their community a better place.
  • Provide resources to assist our members in compliance and professional development.

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