MAKING A DIFFERENCE
Leaders motivate themselves and others to do the right things. They set direction, build an inspiring vision, and create something new. Meet Laura – one of Foothills’ bright, loyal, young leaders. She’s confident, accountable, engaged, courageous, passionate, and humble. But she’ll admit – she hasn’t always embraced all these qualities. Instead, they’ve slowly surfaced since she became involved with Foothills’ Head Start program. In 2013 Laura, her husband Jon, and three young girls – Lilliann, Heidi, and Victoria moved to Winchester. They slowly made the transition to a new community. The couple has always realized the importance of education. When Lilliann started kindergarten, her younger sister Heidi was somewhat envious – she wanted to go to school too. Laura heard about the Head Start program and immediately knew it was a perfect fit. “Plus Heidi was determined to go to school,” said Laura laughing, “so we didn’t really have a choice.” Heidi was soon screened and enrolled in the program.
Foothills’ Head Start program helps economically disadvantaged children from birth to 5 years old develop educational and social skills. Head Start promotes school readiness by enhancing the social and cognitive development of children through the provision of educational, health, nutritional, social and other services to enrolled children and families. The program develops partnerships with community agencies, including public schools, to provide additional services and resources for parents and children. Head Start works to meet each child’s individual needs. Through this early socialization and educational experience, children who attend Head Start and Early Head Start are exposed to both the Head Start Early Learning Framework and the Kentucky Early Childhood Standards. Head Start encourages the role of parents as their child’s first and most important teachers. The program builds relationships with families that support positive parent-child relationships, family well-being, and connections to peers and community.
“When I was young I was expected to earn good grades and do well, but I didn’t have support at home,” said Laura, “I had to do it all on my own.” Laura is a first generation high school graduate and college graduate. “I had always wanted to be involved with Lilliann’s school but never knew how,” said Laura.
She began by volunteering in Heidi’s classroom and was soon invited to attend a local parent group meeting. Before she knew it, she was serving as the group’s President. At the time, she had no idea how much Head Start would personally benefit her. “Everything felt natural,” said Laura. As she navigated her new role, she began networking and making new friends. Her transition to Clark County had become easier.
At the same time Heidi was learning and growing. During Heidi’s two years in the program, her speech improved and she became more social. Over the same time period Laura became more empowered and her responsibilities grew. “I quickly developed a passion I didn’t know I had,” she said. She developed a deep desire and ability to help children and families achieve their highest potential. Soon she began serving on the Area Policy Council (APC), the body that provides oversight and shared governance for the Head Start program. She was elected President of APC in 2015. She has had the opportunity to attend many workshops and training’s at the local, state and national level including the Kentucky Head Start Association Annual Conference and the Head Start Regional Leadership Conference. In 2016 she was selected to serve on the Foothills’ Board of Directors. In 2017 she was elected to the Head Start Region IV Board of Directors.
“I wasn’t expecting Head Start to change me,” said Laura, “but it truly did. I went from being involved in my child’s school to wanting to be involved in the whole community.” With the knowledge she has gleaned from her experiences, she will continue advocating for Head Start children and families.
Each week Laura’s family takes time to focus on each other and they typically let each of the girls choose the activity. Their favorite family activities include hiking, kayaking, and watching movies. Eating dinner together, uninterrupted, is their favorite thing to do together.
Laura and Jon want the best for their children. “We want them to know that they are quality, independent, faith-based women,” said Laura. “We want them to know they are strong enough to do whatever they want. We want them to do well in school, graduate from college, and do whatever makes them happy.” Pictured l-r: Lilliann, Victoria, Laura, and Heidi. Jon, who travels frequently for work, is not pictured.