Representing East Coast families at NMSHSA Conference ’16

John Menditto presenting at the NMSHSA Conference.

John Menditto presenting at the NMSHSA Conference.

The National Migrant & Seasonal Head Start Association (NMSHSA) held its Biennium National Conference in Tysons Corner, Virginia, from February 19 through February 23.  A number of our dedicated employees travelled to the conference to make presentations on best practices we have implemented.  Suzanne Jessamyn and Katherine Savage, for example, presented a session entitled, Creating Cultural Storybooks, and Karen McKnight presented, An Integrated Approach to School Readiness Analysis, while Sue Thomas co-presented an informative session on our innovative approaches to data and ChildPlus.  Suzanne presented a second session with Clara Cappiello on our award-winning curriculum, Our Children, Our Families, and John Menditto had the opportunity to share his work with the National Migrant and Seasonal Head Start Collaboration Office.   

Joining ECMHSP staff at the conference, most for the first time, were the ECMHSP Policy Council Executive Committee members: Cristina Hernandez, President; Claudia Martinez, Vice-President; Jimina Villafuerte, Treasurer; and Leticia Baez, Secretary.  These farmworker parents were able to attend the workshops on topics ranging from indigenous cultures in Mexico to immigration rights and parent involvement. During the Parent Affiliate meeting, Cristina was elected as President and will represent the group as a member of the NMSHSA Board of Directors, while I was elected Vice President of the Staff Affiliate and will serve on the Board of NMSHSA too as well.  Cristina and I were also elected to fill two of the three Member-at-Large positions on the NSMSHA Board of Directors’ Executive Committee. We are very proud to see Cristina’s continued growth and will provide the support she needs as she goes on to represent and lead parents nationwide in the Migrant & Seasonal Head Start Programs.

Policy Council members Jimina and Cristina with ECMHSP Governance staff Maria.

Policy Council members Jimina and Cristina with ECMHSP Governance staff Maria.

At the conference, participants were able to listen from the Office of Head Start, with informative and inspirational presentations from Dr. Blanca Enriquez, Director at the Office of Head Start, and Sandra Carton, Regional Program Manager for Migrant and Seasonal Programs (Region XII). We were also given opportunity to provide feedback at roundtables with organizations leading research projects in the migrant farmworker community and with our Head Start leaders.

Former MSHS participant and NMSHSA Intern Yonny (2nd from right) with his parents and brother.

Former MSHS participant and NMSHSA Intern Yonny (2nd from right) with his parents and brother.

On Sunday, Yonny Castillo, former MSHS child and NMSHSA Summer Intern from 2014, participated in a panel discussion with his parents and others from the MSHSA programs, in which he shared the important role MSHS services played in his success.  At the closing plenary, John helped recognize the conference’s scholarship and award winners, including ECMHSP Governance Assistant Maria Hernandez, recipient of the Clint Mitcham Scholarship. Maria gave a moving speech about her humble beginnings, the service she has provided our farmworker parents, and her dreams to continue her studies.  A special recognition was presented to Lou Struble from Procacci Brothers for their financial support of the NMSHSA Summer Internship Program.

Mitcham Scholarship recipient Maria (center) with NMSHSA Executive Director, Board President and Vice-President.

Mitcham Scholarship recipient Maria (center) with NMSHSA Executive Director, Board President and Vice-President.

While most conference participants headed to the airports, ECMSHP parent Leticia joined me and other MSHS providers on Capitol Hill to meet with our Congressional representatives.  This was Leticia’s first visit to Washington, DC, and had never met with Congressional staff before. She was nervous, but excited to share the importance of the MSHS programs for the farmworker community and urge the Congressional Hispanic Caucus to support funds for our programs. We are so proud of how she represented the needs of farmworker parents and their children.

Policy Council Secretary Leticia with Florida farmworker parent and CHC staff on the Hill.

ECMHSP Policy Council Secretary Leticia with RCMA farmworker parent and CHC staff on the Hill.

This week, ECMSHP brought important and much-needed voices from the fields to our nation’s capital. We look forward to more opportunities to represent our community!

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