Jimina Villafuerte is the ECMHSP Policy Council Treasurer and a farmworker parent. This is her story.
I am Jimina Villafuerte and I have the privilege to be the Treasurer of the Policy Council for East Coast Migrant Head Start Project (ECMHSP). This is the story of how I came to be on the Policy Council and what that means to me.
It all started by just enrolling my son this past year at a Migrant & Seasonal Head Start Center in Whiteville, North Carolina. The Niños Migrant Head Start Center, where my son attends, is operated by Telamon Corporation, which is a delegate agency of ECMHSP. This was my son’s first time ever attending a Migrant & Seasonal Head Start program, although I remember attending many Migrant & Seasonal Head Start programs when I was a young child.
I went to the first parent meeting at Niños Migrant Head Start in April 2015. I arrived a little late from work, just as parents with children enrolled at the center were about to start making nominations for the election of officers for the center’s Parent Committee. I knew many parents there and I was nominated for President and the other parents were expressing how I was a good candidate. Well, I thought to myself: “If other people think good things about me, then I must be saying or doing things right. Then yes, I would do it.”
I was delighted to accept the position for President of the Parent Committee in our center. Then, as a responsibility of the President, I went to the Regional Committee meeting of Telamon Corporation, where all four centers came together. I didn’t know any of the other parents from other centers, but chit-chatting and getting to know each other helped us get a feel of who would represent Telamon Corporation. I was nominated by other members to be President of the Regional Committee and the Representative for Telamon. Well, I thought to myself: “Other people want me to do it and they see me capable for the position. Then yes, I would do it.”
After accepting the position, I had Rosa Maria Matthews, the Regional Coordinator of the Migrant & Seasonal Head Start program for Telamon, asking me if I could participate in the following week’s Policy Council orientation! I remember thinking later on that day, “Wow Jimina, what did you get yourself into? You better do a great job and succeed in the position.”
When I arrived in August for the orientation I was scared — not because I didn’t know anyone, but I was scared I wasn’t going to be smart enough to understand all the information. The fact that I was going to meet very important people from ECMHSP and I had to represent Telamon was nerve-racking. But once the meeting began and the introductions started, I began to feel comfortable because those people were just like me. Everyone was so humble, even Dr. Villa, the CEO. The CEOs I had seen in movies wouldn’t meet with the “smaller people” per se. But here, no one was smaller. On the contrary, the parents are a super important part of ECMHSP.
From the first meeting on, I knew I was in the right place. Everyone has been very welcoming; I’ve never felt alone or lost. ECMHSP makes sure the children, parents, and families are meeting all of their needs and that the ECMHSP mission is first. I have been able to participate in the ECMHSP Self-Assessment in September, the Policy Council meeting in October, and in December and January, I was even able to participate in job interviews for candidates of positions of work at ECMHSP. It was just when I came to Clearwater, Florida, for the February Policy Council meeting when I realized how East Coast has helped me think outside the box and review aspects of my life, and where I stand.
If I wouldn’t have put my child at Niños Migrant Head Start, I wouldn’t be here and I wouldn’t be thinking about bettering my future. I’ve worked hard to obtain my Associate’s Degree in Applied Science, which I am very proud of, but I have set my mind to go back to school and get another degree in another field. Hopefully, with the support of my family, I will be able to obtain another degree. I know it won’t be easy, but ECMHSP has given me the confidence in myself to believe that anything is possible, as long as you don’t give up and work very hard. I want to continue to advocate for all migrant families and one day I will achieve all my goals. Thank you, East Coast Migrant Head Start Project, for the opportunity to educate myself and for supporting all of us parents, children, and families.