Saturday, November 14, 2015

Parent, Family, and Community Engagement

How can you not be impressed if you heard the story of Almeta Richards Keys, a Head Start parent in Louisiana 35 years ago who is currently the Executive Director of a parent child center in Washington, D.C.? Because of her involvement as a parent in the Head Start programs, she was able to empower herself by cultivating the systems of Head Start and the process of rules and regulations. One of her four Head Start children got a Master’s degree in Engineering (Keys, 2011).

You would have to be likewise impressed with Zachary James who had 8 Head Start children; Zachary decided to learn how to read so that he can read books to the daughter who kept asking him to read books to her. He learned how to read, got his GED, and started reading books to his children! Imagine the influence that action had on his children; it showed how much Zachary valued reading that he went back to school to read and become more engaged with his daughter when they both read books! I know the importance of parents and children reading books together because I attribute our family’s nightly reading ritual to our children’s eventual academic success.

Those stories evoke inspiration when they are told in first person. Those stories illuminate the outcomes and the data that cannot begin to tell the personal stories of parents whose lives are turned around because of Head Start involvement in the lives of their children and themselves.

Head Start involvement breaks what is frequently a vicious cycle and creates a community where parents such as Zachary James and Almeta Richard Key become involved for future generations. I know that James’ daughter will always remember how her father learned to read just for her; and that is very empowering kind of love. Key invested in becoming involved in the Head Start program committees, and her son was able to get his Master’s in Engineering! Oftentimes, all they needed was this one break and words of encouragement.

Ashline (2013) outlined five reasons why we should volunteer at our children’s school. They are:
1.     It takes a village.
2.     A little goes a long way.
3.     Everyone has something to offer.
4.     Your child will benefit.
5.     You’ll feel good.

Some families have resources to volunteer at their children’s schools. Head Start programs make it possible and easier for parents to volunteer at their children’s childcare and educational programs, and the entire village benefits. Then, you’ll also feel good.


Ashline, J. (2013). 5 reasons you should volunteer at your child’s school. The Orange County Register. Retrieved from:
James, Z. (2008). Parent interview. 36th Annual National Head Start Training Conference. Retrieved from:

Keys, A. R. (2011) Parent and family stories. Head Start. Retrieved from:


  1. Marla,

    I agree that these stories are inspirational and hearing them makes them real. It's not just the children that benefit from Head Start, it's the whole family! It does take a village! Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

  2. Marla,
    Lovely post! The stories that we heard were definitely inspiring. I agree that we should rely on testimonies like this to show outcomes and success of the programs.
    Something I read in your post that I hadn't thought of is how head start not only gives children a positive start in their education and in their lives, but it breaks the cycle sometimes of education barriers, and family problems.
    Thank you for sharing,