Monica Vicente is part of the 2019 NMSHSA Summer Internship Program and as a child was enrolled in a Head Start Program.
This summer I was given the opportunity to intern with East Coast Migrant Head Start Project. With my interest in studying communications, this placement was a perfect fit.
As I reflect on my first day of being introduced to Norma Lopez, John Menditto, Rita Rey, and Diane Santo, I was very nervous. They welcomed me with open arms and would often spoil me with coffee dates. I was filled with exuberance as I saw them working as a team to comply with the organization’s goals.
I had no prior knowledge in communications and hoped to gain some skills to apply into my field of interest, nursing. My main goal this summer was to assist in hosting The Foundation for Farmworkers’ first event, which I can now check off my list. It was a success with the assistance of my colleagues!
One of the tasks that I have worked on personally, has been my self-confidence. Being able to express my story and who I am in a professional manner. I remember one of my first tasks was conducting a phone interview with a Head Start parent. I found myself stuttering or cutting off the parent as they shared their story. As I went around Columbia Heights cookie tasting, it was difficult to introduce myself and explain why I was there. I wanted Norma to come with me to do all the talking or have her make the phone calls. I started with phone calls and improved my communication skills as I made more. I was able to develop communication skills that will not only help in the working environment, but in my life overall.
I am altruistic. When arriving I was reminded of how unique I was compared to other interns in Washington, D.C. As I started attending events and hearing families from opposite ends of the country share a similar story as my own was humbling. Coming from a small town, I didn’t know other migrant families faced similar challenges. Seeing the lines of worry crease in the mother’s face when sharing her story publicly reminded me of my own mother. That is when I knew of my purpose here in Washington, D.C. In the tasks that I was given I tried to fully engage and find ways to improve.
The Farmworkers Foundation Inaugural Event
July 19th, the day of the event was like my birthday. I was filled with joy to see it all come together in such a great venue that represents the organization, the Mexican Cultural Institute. My favorite part of the event was hearing the stories that our Head Start parents shared. Hearing them speaking a foreign language, and sharing their struggles when trying to obtain DACA, or struggling financially is something only a handful of people would do. Their act of courage reminds me of my parents. A few tears streamed down my face, because I understood why John and Norma work so hard to assist parents, just like my own in their time of need.
We were quickly cheered up by a brilliant group of high school students that performed mariachi. Their performance was the highlight of the night. Similarly, they come from a farmworker family background. Seeing the energy they brought to remind us of our culture was fantastic! We were all so gleeful that as guests were leaving, I completely forgot about the gift bags that I had worked so hard on. I had made nice little bows, designed the buttons and bookmarks, 200 to be exact!
As I spend my last days in the office, I reminisce on some of the best few weeks of my life. At first it was difficult; I didn’t know how to get to the office by taking the metro. I didn’t know how to cook either, so I would come home from work and experiment in the kitchen. It was frustrating at first, but I adjusted quickly. I now have a schedule that I will miss. I have been offered great opportunities these past eight weeks. None of this would have been able to happen without the National Migrant & Seasonal Head Start Association and East Coast Migrant Head Start Project.
Head Start Center Visit!
The National Migrant & Seasonal Head Start Association interns and I got the chance to visit one of the Head Start centers on the Eastern Shore. Visiting the ECMHSP Parksley Center brought back memories of my family and me. At the young age of two, I was introduced to Agri-Business Child Development, where Head Start teachers would care and educate me.
We walked in right during lunch. The kids were excited as their plate of various healthy food arrived, macaroni, peas and applesauce. As the children ate the applesauce, they would point at apples and repeat the word. This brought back memories, as I remember trying different meals that were different from the Mexican food I was raised with. It was the best of both worlds.
We then headed out to visit the chicken company, where some of the parents of the children work. We were introduced to a family, who are in charge of caring for the chickens 24 hours a day. We met their daughter, Jimena who assists them in their work.
During this visit, we went to the camps in which the migrant and seasonal farmworker families live. This part of the trip was very eye opening because growing up my family didn’t migrate between states. I learned more about migrant farmworkers through my internship with East Coast Migrant Head Start Project. I was able to see their housing conditions, which consist of two families living in one small house that includes one room and one kitchen. The bathrooms are in the center of the camps, where children must run to when they need to use the restroom at midnight. I saw the laundry room that was chained up, only accessible to the families in their scheduled time of the week. As I was walking, I saw clothes being hung up, shirts that were originally white but were now brown due to dirt stains.
Through the experience this internship has offered me, I know that my role does not end here. I will continue to be the voice of farmworker families. I know that my parents’ sacrifices were done for the purpose of a better lifestyle for my family. And it all started with Head Start.