ECMHSP Opens Center in St. Helena Island

St. Helena's farmworker families drop off their children at the center.

St. Helena Island’s farmworker families drop off their children at the center.

This week East Coast Migrant Head Start Project opened its heart, and its Head Start center, to migrant farmworker families in St. Helena Island, South Carolina. The opening of each of our centers requires a lot of planning and hard work.  This is particularly true for our centers that serve a highly mobile population and are open for a short duration – like the St. Helena Island center, which can be open for as short as six weeks.

Our planning and hard work began in the spring when our regional team from South Carolina traveled to Florida to recruit and pre-enroll families in the program.  It is always such a thrill for our South Carolina team to re-connect with the children and families we have served in prior years.  This year was no exception.

ECMSHP staff visit farmworker families in Florida to find Head Start eligible families.

ECMSHP staff visit farmworker families in Florida to find Head Start eligible families.

Then, a host of activities began at the administrative level as our Human Resources professionals worked tirelessly to plan for the relocation of employees from our Florida centers to work in the St. Helena Island Center. This year a total of 13 mission-driven individuals relocated from their homes, families, and communities so that ECMHSP could be successful in St. Helena.  We, and our farmworker families, are so fortunate to have so many dedicated employees.

Children learn and play at the St. Helena center while their parents work in the fields.

Children learn and play at the St. Helena Island Head Start center while their parents work in the fields.

Meiby, farmworker parent, works in South Carolinas tomato farms.

Meiby Soto, a Florida farmworker parent, works in South Carolina’s tomato farms.

Farmworker families in St. Helena Island work primarily harvesting tomatoes. One such farmworker is Berenice Meiby Mora Soto.  Meiby and her son, Jovani, live in Immokalee, Florida.  I first got to know Meiby through her service on the ECMHSP Policy Council.  More recently, I’ve had the distinct pleasure of getting to know Meiby by helping her with her Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) application.  DACA is a program administered through United States Citizenship and Immigration Services that creates opportunities for eligible individuals to obtain an employment authorization document.  Through the DACA program, Meiby is enrolled in school in a course of study designed to lead to her General Equivalency Development (GED).

Meiby is a wonderful mother and a tremendously hard worker. She has dreams for herself and dreams for her son, Jovani.  In this way, she is like so many of the migrant farmworkers we are privileged to serve in St. Helena Island and all along the East Coast.   With the opening of the St. Helena Island center, as with the opening of all of our centers to the north of Florida, we reaffirm our commitment to helping our families make their dreams come true.

ECMHSP staff work with children to ensure they have a head start in their education.

ECMHSP staff work closely with children to provide them with a high-quality early education.

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