Happy Trails to you, Floria!

Floria and ECMHSP child

At East Coast Migrant Head Start Project, we greatly appreciate those individuals who dedicate their professional careers to serve our farmworker families.  Floria Pacheco became part of the ECMHSP family in 1986.  After 31 years of dedicated service to farmworker families, she has retired.  We are grateful for all the years that she’s been a leader with us.

We recently were able to chat with Floria about her time with ECMHSP.

How did you begin your career at ECMHSP?

In November 1986, I saw a job advertisement to work at the Shannon Head Start Center in Belle Glade, Florida. I started as a part-time office assistant and part-time caregiver. Two months later, I was encouraged to apply for the Assistant Director position and got it. I was the Assistant Director for 15 years. I later became the Director for the ECMHSP Ft. Pierce Center for a year, then spent another 15 years at the ECMHSP Indiantown Center as the Director.

What is your fondest memory at ECMHSP?

Working with the families and the children. Seeing the growth of the children as time passes by.

Throughout all these years, how did you maintain strong relationships with ECMHSP staff?

I have a very friendly personality, so that helped me build strong relationships with my colleagues. I’m also an open communicator.

What will you miss the most about working for ECMHSP?

Helping the children and the families. Serving East Coast’s mission.

What was the most difficult part about your decision to retire?

Leaving the children and the ECMHSP staff.

What advice would you give to a new employee at ECMHSP?

Work very hard and multi-task. Be sensitive to the different cultures of our farmworker families.

What do you look forward to now that you’re retiring?

I was born in Costa Rica, so I will travel there for a month to visit my family, then I will go to Texas to visit two of my kids. I look forward to spending more time with my seven grandkids.

Floria and kids

Happy Trails to you, Donitta!

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At East Coast Migrant Head Start Project, we greatly appreciate those individuals who dedicate their professional careers to serve our farmworker families.  Donitta Turner became part of the ECMHSP family in May of 2000.  Among her responsibilities, she provided training to bus drivers and bus monitors throughout the East Coast, which meant that she spent several months out of the year traveling.  We are very grateful for all the years that she worked tirelessly to make sure that our children arrived safely to our Head Start Centers.

We recently were able to chat with Donitta about her time with ECMHSP.

How did you begin your career at ECMHSP?

I began at ECMHSP in May 2000 as a bus driver, then Lead Bus Driver, then Transportation Specialist and finally as Assistant Transportation Manager.

What is your fondest memory at ECMHSP?

Riding the bus with happy children singing all the way home.

Throughout all these years, how did you maintain strong relationships with ECMHSP staff?

By treating everyone with respect and dignity.

What will you miss the most about working for ECMHSP?

All the families and children.  All the people I have worked so closely with and all the traveling from state to state, center to center.

What advice would you give to a new employee at ECMHSP?

Be your best while doing your best.

What do you look forward to now that you’re retiring and what does your family think of your decision to retire?

I look forward to going fishing.  Spending time with my children and grandchildren who are just as excited as I am about having time to be with them.

Promoting Parent Engagement at East Coast

GLORIA BLOG PICFor more than 40 years, ECMHSP has offered high-quality and comprehensive Head Start services to farmworker families.  We have created a strong partnership with the parents of the children enrolled at our centers, and through their dedicated service and leadership, we are able to design a program that meets the unique needs of the farmworker families in our communities.

One such dedicated parent is Gloria Castillo, who has been an ECMHSP parent for five seasons.  She was born in Queretaro, Mexico, and has lived in the United States since 2005.  Gloria has almost 10 years of experience working in the fields.  She’s proud to say that three of her four kids have had the opportunity to attend the ECMHSP Faison Center in North Carolina.

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Gloria visits the ECMHSP Faison Center and meets Dr. Bergeron, Director of the Office of Head Start.

When we asked Gloria what the most important service that ECMHSP has offered her family, she says, “Health services is the greatest blessing from this program.  The ECMHSP staff is always on top of all vaccinations and routine exams.”  Two years ago, her daughter Leslie was thoroughly evaluated by the ECMHSP staff that focuses on disabilities.  They diagnosed Leslie with a speech impairment and immediately helped set up weekly therapy sessions.  Today, Leslie is doing much better and is a stronger communicator.

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Gloria Castillo’s greatest treasures!

Gloria has been challenged to grow in ways she never thought possible.  She’s currently serving as the ECMHSP Faison Center’s President of the Parent Committee, an honor that she’s had for two consecutive years.  Her responsibilities include coordinating monthly parent meetings and attending training with the help of the center’s director.  Since she’s done such a great job leading the Parent Committee, she was also elected to be a part of the ECMHSP Policy Council since August 2017.  In the near future, Gloria hopes to start ESL classes that are offered by ECMHSP’s community partners.

While we proudly serve the needs of farmworker families across seven states, we recognize all that we benefit from their service as well.  We thank Gloria for being one of our superstar parents!

A Head Start in a Field of Dreams

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The Adams County MSHS Center Field of Dreams is located near the heart of South Central Pennsylvania’s “Fertile Crescent” growth area.  The center is operated by PathStone, an ECMHSP Delegate Agency contracted to provide migrant and seasonal Head Start services in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.  The countryside encompasses some of the East Coast’s most productive agricultural areas.  Our farmworker families work with apples, pears, grapes, stone fruits, picking and packing flowers, nursery crops, packing eggs, poultry, and caring for farm animals.

Last week, the four selected participants of the National Migrant and Seasonal Head Start Association’s 2018 summer internship program had the opportunity to visit the center that currently serves 59 children.  Childhood memories filled their heads as they walked into the center.  More than 15 years ago, they were the same kids that today were getting a head start at the Adams County MSHS Center Field of Dreams.

Erika Aguilar

ECMHSP is a proud supporter of the NMSHSA summer internship program, which provides paid internships each year for four college students who previously participated in the MSHS program, such as Erika Aguilera.  “Visiting the Migrant Head Start Center brought me so many flashbacks of when I was a little girl dipping my fingers in paint and learning my 123’s.  When I saw the babies and toddlers, I was excited for their future and the potential they all have,” Erika said.  As a child, Erika was enrolled in a MSHS program operated by Agri-Business Child Development, a former ECMHSP delegate agency.

Julian Martinez

Julian Martinez, another participant of the NMSHSA summer internship program had a lot to say about his visit to Adams County.  “Going to PathStone in Pennsylvania was eye-opening and awe-inspiring.  My visit was remarkable because as I sauntered into the first classroom, my mind flooded with memories of being a child again and going to my center in Texas with teachers who cared for me as their own and classmates who became lifelong friends.  The experience was eye-opening because it showed me how fortunate I was to have been able to attend a center where I was cared for and protected from the fields filled with dangerous pesticides and farm equipment,” said Martinez.

The interns were not the only ones impacted by the visit.  ECMHSP’s dedicated staff were reminded how important the high-quality education provided at ECMHSP MSHS centers is in preparing these children for success.  These four NMSHSA interns are headed towards bright futures and show us that Head Start works!  The 2018 visit to the Adams County MSHS Center Field of Dreams, was a great way for them to end a summer filled with life-changing experiences.  ECMHSP looks forward to hosting the next class of summer interns, and wish the Field of Dreams center a great season!

Planning for Head Start Success Through Shared Governance

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Effective governance is an essential part of any successful Head Start program.  East Coast Migrant Head Start Project is proud of the strong partnership we have with our Board of Directors and Policy Council!  Their great leadership and unwavering dedication to the mission allows us to provide comprehensive, high-quality early childhood education and Head Start services to farmworker families.

Each year, the ECMHSP Board of Directors and Policy Council meet to fulfill their shared responsibilities and, in collaboration with the ECMHSP management team, provide strategic direction for the organization.  This year, the ECMHSP Shared Governance Meeting took place on July 20 in Raleigh, North Carolina, the location of ECMHSP’s headquarters.

Leading up to the Shared Governance Meeting, the Board of Directors and Policy Council members met with their respective standing committees.  Each committee meeting is filled with rich discussions as the members delve deep into their corresponding topics and do “the heavy lifting” in fulfilling their responsibilities.  Policies and program data is reviewed; proposals are made and debated; and committee recommendations are prepared for presentation to the governing bodies.

The Board of Directors and Policy Council built on the momentum from the committee meetings and met last Friday for their annual Shared Governance Meeting.  The President of the Board of Directors, Dr. David Conde, called the meeting to order and initiated introductions, followed by a moment of silence in solidarity with the children and families currently separated at the US/Mexico border and remain in detention or have been deported.  Then the President of the Policy Council, Meiby Mora Soto, presented her report, The View from the Policy Council, which exalted significant milestones and activities achieved by the Policy Council over the past year.  Following her report, ECMHSP’s Chief Executive Officer, Dr. Jose S. Villa, provided his report, The View from the CEO, which provided a review of accomplishments and challenges of the organization.

The Board of Directors assumes legal and fiscal responsibility for the organization and charged with safeguarding the Head Start federal funds.  Each year, they are presented with the results of the external financial audit to ensure the organization’s financial statements are in compliance.  The external auditing firm provided Board and the Policy Council with this year’s report, which contained no significant findings.  You can view the results of the most recent audited financial statements on our website.

During the annual Shared Governance Meeting, the Board and Policy Council are provided with presentations on policies and applications that require their joint approval.  This year, they approved the 2018-19 Migrant and Seasonal Head Start grant application, the ECMHSP Strategic Plan for the following five years, and the updates to ECMHSP Shared Decision-Making and Internal Dispute Resolution Procedures.

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Norma Flores López, Governance and Collaboration/Development Manager, with the ECMHSP Governance Team.

In between the thoughtful discussions and thorough presentations, the Board of Directors and Policy Council made time to celebrate as well.  The Policy Council hosted a beautiful baby shower for the Governance Manager, which became a night filled with fun activities, lots of laughter, and—most importantly to our tiniest guests—delicious cake!  At the conclusion of the Shared Governance meeting, the President of the Board of Directors also hosted a reception to provide the meeting attendees an opportunity to get to know each other outside of the board room.

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ECMHSP Policy Council

The insightful input and careful decisions made by the Board of Directors and Policy Council provide ECMHSP with a road map to success for our Head Start program.  The farmworker families we serve from Lake Okeechobee, Florida, to Lake Erie, Pennsylvania, will benefit from last week’s shared decision-making and can rest assured that the leadership of ECMHSP remains as committed as ever to their families’ well-being.  We look forward to next year’s Shared Governance Meeting in Washington, D.C!

A Safe Haven for Farmworker Families

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The ECMHSP Hendersonville Head Start Center opened on Monday, June 25.  Mayra Lozano, Family Services Coordinator, was one of the most eager staff members receiving our farmworker families on the first day of the season.  About 20 children showed up ready to learn.

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An ECMHSP parent is excited to pick up her children.

The ECMHSP Hendersonville Center is unique because it’s located in Western North Carolina.  The county is known as the Apple County because it’s surrounded by apple orchards.  Besides harvesting apples, this center’s families also work with tomatoes, corn, strawberries, bell peppers, and squash.  They also work pack a variety of produce and at nurseries.

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Mayra Lozano, Family Services Coordinator, reading to the children at the Hendersonville Center.

Mayra has been part of the ECMHSP family since 2017.  However, her experience at Telamon started in 2012, so she brings our organization plenty of experience.  She knows first-hand how much farmworker families sacrifice.  Although Mayra was only nine-years-old at the time, she recalls the day her dad fell off the ladder while picking oranges in Florida.  The consequences would be life-changing because her dad broke two discs in his spinal cord.  Seeing that her dad lost his ability to walk due to this accident shaped the rest of her life.  Mayra knows that many farmworker families would struggle without the services that ECMHSP provide, so she always goes out of her way to give her very best.  She knows how important it is to provide farmworkers’ kids a safe haven for learning while their parents are doing back-breaking labor in the fields.

The Eastern Shore of Virginia Gets a Head Start

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Currently, Jose Enriquez is the Family Services Coordinator at the ECMHSP Parksley Center.  The ECMHSP Parksley Head Start Center is special because it’s ECMHSP’s only center that serves two states, which are Virginia and Maryland.  Work done by our farmworker families in the Eastern Shore include: the production and harvesting of tree crops, field crops, nursery crops, eggs, poultry, fish, seafood, and the care of farm animals.

Jose was born in Veracruz, Mexico.  At the age of 13, he settled with his parents in Virginia.  From a very young age, he saw how hard both of his parents worked in the tomato fields for over five years, so he decided to make them proud.  His excellent grades allowed him to finish high school as the sixth best ranking student.  He always knew that he would pursue a career that gave back to his community.  Now, as a part of the ECMHSP family, he makes a difference every day.

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Making new friendships during the first day of the season!

Jose has lived in the Virginia Eastern Shore area since he was a child, so families rely on him for crucial information about services.  “From the enrollment process, we are the face of the center.  If we don’t give a good impression, then parents won’t trust us,” says Jose.  The ECMHSP Parksley Center opened on Tuesday with 19 children.  Jose shares that families need Head Start services to be extended for additional weeks.  Currently, this center operates between June and November.  However, when the center closes, farmworker families struggle to find a place that provides similar services for their children.  Jose is determined to increase enrollment of farmworker families and hopefully extend the center’s season.

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The children enjoy the nutritious meals provided by our amazing ECMHSP staff.

Jose points out that one of their most important partnerships is with the Eastern Shore Rural Health System, Inc.  These clinics have outreach workers that provide assistance to families and even help transport them to their doctor’s appointments.  They are constantly in contact with the families and are very responsive to the farmworker community.

When farmworker families migrate to Maryland and Virginia’s Eastern Shore, they know they can count on the Parksley Center to provide them with the lifeline into the community to meet their families’ needs.  Jose, along with the Parksley Center staff are committed to making a difference, one smiling child at a time.