North Carolina is home to nine of our 38 East Coast Migrant Head Start Project centers. I recently had the opportunity to visit some of our centers for the first time since starting my career at ECMHSP. My greatest take away was the passion ECMHSP staff have for their mission-driven work. In this post, I wanted to share with you some insights I learned from my visits the ECMHSP Angier Center and the ECMHSP Faison Center.
The ECMHSP Angier Center
Zorylaine Perez was born in Puerto Rico. I sat down to talk to her during my visit to the ECMHSP Angier Center. “One day while attending my local church, a friend who has kids enrolled here at ECMHSP mentioned the organization’s career opportunities,” says Perez. Since Zorylaine had already worked with legal services and advocated for families, her friend encouraged her to apply. Parents at ECMHSP understand that they must take an active role in their children’s education, which includes helping with recruitment efforts.
The children enjoy a nutritious lunch during their first day of the season at the ECMHSP Angier Center.
This is Zorylaine’s second season working at the Angier Center as the Family Services Coordinator. She’s confident of being able to enroll more farmworker families through a better strategy of recruitment. The farmworker families in Angier have experience harvesting strawberries, blueberries, cucumbers, pumpkins, melons, watermelons, sweet potatoes, and tobacco. From day one, Zorylaine guides families about all the services that are offered to them. She points out that one of the center’s community partnerships is with Safe Horizon, whose mission is to provide support, prevent violence, and promote justice for victims of crime and abuse, their families and communities. Zorylaine’s biggest goal of the season is to increase the amount of volunteer time that ECMHSP parents give back to the center.
The ECMHSP Faison Center
I was lucky enough to be present during parent orientation at the Faison Center. I watched attentively as ECMHSP staff explained everything from how to sign in every day, to how daily attendance at the center is so important for their children’s success.
Wendy Fernandez, Family Services Coordinator at the ECMHSP Faison Center in North Carolina.
Wendy Fernandez came to the U.S. at the age of 20 from Honduras. She’s the proud mother of three kids and joined ECMHSP in 2008. What motivates Wendy every day as the Faison Center’s Family Services Coordinator? “There are single moms that wouldn’t be able to go to work if it wasn’t for the services that we provide. Families know the countless benefits of ECMHSP versus leaving their kids with a babysitter,” says Wendy.
A couple of seasons ago, Wendy talked to the parents of a four-year-old about needing to be referred to a disabilities specialist. ECMHSP staff had noticed that the child had problems with his vision. Unfortunately, the child’s father did not see a problem with his son and refused to sign the necessary referral paper work. “I’m going to talk to you as a mother and not as an employee of this center. If I were in your place, I would have my child checked out to rule out any health concerns that could negatively impact his future,” Wendy told him. By being empathetic, Wendy was able to gain this family’s trust.
A perfect day to be outdoors!
Our early childhood education services at ECMHSP are designed to put each child we serve on a path to school success. For our infants and young toddlers, learning is nurtured through warm relationships with responsive teachers who understand each child’s style and rate of learning. ECMHSP’s culturally-responsive curriculum targets the language, literacy, and other school readiness skills of older toddlers and preschoolers in each of their languages. What makes ECMHSP truly special is our ability to meet the unique needs of farmworker families, who often live in hard-to-reach rural areas and work long days for extremely low wages. I look forward to visiting other centers on the East Coast and learning more about the little miracles that we make happen every day. Make sure to continuously check out our blog to learn about the latest news at ECMHSP!