I recently had the opportunity to conduct a phone interview with Rosa Cendejas, one of our top team members at the ECMHSP Fort Pierce Center in Florida. Keep reading to learn more about her professional growth since joining East Coast Migrant Head Start Project in 1997.
Could you tell me more about your background?
I migrated from Mexico to the United States in February of 1986 and worked picking oranges in Fort Pierce, Florida for six years. In 1997, I first heard of East Coast Migrant Head Start Project through a friend that was working at the Fort Pierce Center. I started work with ECMHSP in February of that same year as a Substitute Teacher. I learned that I would have to go back to school to meet the requirements of the position. Shortly after, I started classes to get my GED. This was a difficult experience since I didn’t know how to speak English. One of the happiest days of my life took place in August of 2012. I received my Associate’s in Science in Early Childhood Education. It was a challenge both professionally and personally. My busy schedule only allowed me to take one to two classes per semester, but thanks to the support of my family, I made it. Being a professional, mother, full-time wife, and a student wasn’t easy, but the satisfaction was even greater once I achieved my goals. I’m currently the Family Services Coordinator at the ECMHSP Fort Pierce Center.
What benefits have you received from ECMHSP?
What I appreciate the most is that they motivated me to continue getting an education. ECMHSP is full of opportunities; it depends on us whether we want to take advantage of them or not. Over the years, I had the opportunity to complete the Child Care Health Advocate Certificate in 2011 and the Family Services Credential in 2016. ECMHSP has also had a positive impact on my family.
I heard that two of your three children attended the ECMHSP Fort Pierce Center.
Yes, my sons Armando and Alejandro both attended the ECMHSP Fort Pierce Center as young children. In 2017, Armando was one of four former Head Start students selected to participate in an internship by the National Migrant and Seasonal Head Start Association in Washington, D.C. He was placed with the National Hispanic Caucus of State Legislators for almost two months. He even wrote a guest blog post about his experience. Armando, 22, is currently attending Indian River State College in Fort Pierce, Florida. I’m proud to say that he’s been working with me at the ECMHSP Fort Pierce Center as a Center Bus Caregiver since last year. I know that Armando has a bright future ahead.
What is the most exciting part of opening the center for the season?
I like to see the closeness of our team while preparing to open the center. They are not work colleagues but are part of your family. I like the feeling of serving our farmworker families. Many families don’t know how to read or write, so I become their voice.
At your center, what kind of agricultural work do the farmworker families do?
Our families work primarily with oranges and grapefruits. However, we also serve families that work at nurseries.
How do you maintain strong relationships with parents?
A lot of the new families feel uneasy at first. I’m good at reading and understanding body language, so I try to make them feel at home from the first moment.
Have you recently worked at any other centers?
During July and August of this year, I was asked to work at the ECMHSP Jennings Center as a Family Services Worker. This center is more than four hours away from my home in Fort Pierce, so I came back to visit my family every two weeks. My husband is very supportive of my career.
Thank you so much for allowing me to interview you, Rosa. Is there anything that you would like to add?
In the end, the sacrifices and everything I’ve done throughout my life has been worth it. Seeing the happiness of my family, parents, and the Fort Pierce community is priceless.
At ECMHSP, we look forward to sharing more success stories like Rosa’s. Make sure to check back next week for new blog posts.