It Takes A Village – And Then Some!

Establishing Head Start services in a local community is one of the most challenging and fascinating journeys we take at ECMHSP.  It involves the coming together of talented and dedicated folks from a wide variety of disciplines, and it involves countless hours of strategizing, planning, and very hard work.

Little girl

Young girl playing and learning in an ECMHSP Head Start classroom in Florida.

On February 5, members of our Board of Directors had the opportunity to meet many of these talented and dedicated folks when they visited two of our three Early Head Start expansion sites in Florida.  We began the day in Wauchula, where we visited our Migrant and Seasonal Head Start center and checked in on the construction status of our EHS addition.  We were greeted at Wauchula by Center Director Leti Enriquez and her core team of Sheana Hamilton, Elizabeth Arcelay, Marlen Zavala, Tina Cortez, Rosa Perez, Mariela Camarillo, and Jean Palmer, who shared with our Board the center’s services and accomplishments.  The Board was able to meet our dedicated teachers and learn about their work, while also visiting with our young children.  ECMHSP Facilities Manager Mike Wilcox and architect Ted Hoffman shared an update on the EHS addition we are completing at Wauchula, followed by a gourmet-quality lunch for everyone from Chef Brian Moore, center cook, and his supporting cast of Mary O’Neal and Juanita Perez.

From Wauchula, the Board traveled to Palmetto to learn about the phenomenal work being accomplished at our new site at the Palm View Elementary School.   Three parents from the center’s Parent Committee — Livina Aguilar, President; Evidencia Ventura, Vice President; and Cecilia Cedillo, Officer Alternate — took the lead in showing off the new center.  Their sense of pride was clear and inspiring, as was the pride of all of the dedicated Head Start staff who have made this new center such a success:  Estela Tapia, Edna Gracia, Dora Santana, Sherry Bauer, Linda Cornelius, Ingrid Rivera, Nancy Romero, Arlene Torres, Mariel Gonzalez, Enrique Torres, Kim Luna, Darleen Schaible Jorge Velazquez, Suzanne Jessamyn, Annette Betts, Mariely Rivera, and Angel Casiano.  But the best part of the educational adventure may have been the smiling faces of the children.

Little boy

One of the children served by the ECMHSP Head Start centers in Florida.

Our newest Head Start center is under construction just four hours away in Hamilton County, near the Florida/Georgia state line.  While the Board was unable to visit the site, Mike Wilcox and Ted Hoffman are working tirelessly to ensure our new center is one that we can be proud of.  The modular units have been delivered and set and work has begun in earnest to finish the project before the migrant farmworker families arrive for the tomato harvest in mid-May.  This week, Mariely Rivera, Early Head Start Administrator, brings members of her core team to Hamilton County for interviews of potential staff, as well as important meetings with key partners such as the Hamilton County School District, Florida Migrant Education, and the local migrant health program.

Our growing success has been made possible through the support and partnership of our Board of Directors, our Policy Council, our dedicated staff, and the local communities in which our centers operate. Our hearts are full of gratitude to our village – and then some!

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