This Saturday from 5-9 pm we will host the Head Start Project. There will be food trucks, pop up shops, and (of course) free skating! 10% of all sales from the night will go towards Mountainland Head Start and Kids on the Move. These two nonprofits provide resources for low-income families and children with disabilities that help them to succeed in school.
As we’ve prepared for the event, we’ve gotten to know the amazing staff at these organizations and hear stories about the lives changed because of what they do. This has only made me more sure about our decision to support these groups. I want to share these two stories, shared with us by Cindy Jenkins from Mountainland Head Start, to show you what a difference you’ll be making by supporting these programs.
Shelby participated in Mountainland Head Start as a child. “My family background isn’t really the happiest,” said Shelby. “My parents divorced when I was a little over a year old, and my mother had primary custody of me. My mom had a lot of mental health issues, like bipolar disorder and severe depression, but she also had a big drug problem.” This addiction led to an unstable living environment for Shelby and her older half sister. Changing schools at least once a year and receiving no help at home, Shelby struggled to keep up with school work. But this determined girl never gave up. Speaking of her Head Start experience, Shelby shared that “I know it sounds nerdy, but I just fell in love with school and learning.” This kept her going during those rough years. When Shelby was turned 10, her mother was busted for possession, and her father was finally able to get custody. Her mother passed away about a year after that of a drug overdose.
Living with her dad provided Shelby the environment she needed to succeed. “I had an almost perfect GPA all through junior high and high school, and I graduated in the top 20 of my class,” she shared, “I had so many teachers helping me and supporting me all along the way, and I feel very blessed to have learned from the people that I did.” Shelby has since moved on to higher education, receiving scholarships and continuing to excel. “I am currently a senior at Brigham Young University in the Biological Science Education major,” studying to become like the teachers who helped to change her path in life. “I am really looking forward to helping kids learn, and I’m lucky enough to be able to teach the best subject in the whole school. I just really like working with people and helping make a difference.”
The Pederson Family
Heike Pederson and her family qualified for Head Start services seventeen years ago. At the time, she had three small children under the age of four, her husband was suffering from chronic health problems, and her family lived off of a small income. Her and her husband’s highest levels of education were a high school diploma and a GED. Heike shared that “the family service specialist that came into our home helped me to set long-term goals that would eventually enable my family to become self-sufficient, own our home, and secure the future for our family.”
When speaking of her son’s experience in the program, Heike has nothing but positive feedback. “His mind was stimulated as he was exposed to many new ways to look at the world around him, as well as through the social interactions he was privy to. The rich, developmentally-appropriate curriculum fostered in him a love for school and learning that paved the way to a successful school career and a lifelong love for education.” Her son currently attends UVU, studying Business. He has launched several ventures and has financially supported himself since high school. “Higher education would likely not be a part of our family’s present situation, or future endeavors, had it not been for the influence of the Head Start program,” said Heike. That has now changed, opening up a brighter future to the Pederson family.
“I recently finished my English Education, BS degree, and have been working as a teacher. Last year, I am proud to say, our 8th grade English program received recognition for achieving the top scores in the writing category in the first year of the Utah SAGE test (2013-14). I am so grateful for the guidance and encouragement I received from the Head Start specialists and the teaching example I witnessed first-hand from the Head Start teachers. For now, not only am I able to financially support my family, I am able to sustain my family doing something that I love.”
Seeing how going back to school changed their mom inspired Heike’s other children to reach for higher education. “I now hear them, in conversation with each other, discussing which university they would like to attend,” says their proud parent. “Head Start is more than just a preschool, it is a program that lifts families up, enabling them to see and reach their potential.”
We hope you'll join us this Saturday for some Classic Family Fun, all for a wonderful cause. For more information on Mountainland Head Start or Kids On the Move, visit their websites at mountainlandheadstart.org and kotm.org. You can donate to the Head Start Project online at headstartproject.com/donate.