Natasha Neal knows that being a leader doesn’t always come with a title. As the Executive Assistant for Catholic Charities Westside Head Start, her day often consists of organizing meetings and staff events. She also gets to be around some of the strongest leaders out there—parents.
Westside Head Start Fosters a Sense of Community
Catholic Charities Westside Head Start is more than just a preschool. It’s a community that supports the growth and development of young children while improving the well-being of the whole family. It emphasizes pre-reading, language, math, cognitive skills, health, and social and emotional competence to prepare children for school.
A Mom in Need of Support
It all started in August 2014, when Natasha was looking to enroll her daughter, Cecilia, in preschool. She was talking to Cecilia’s pediatrician, who mentioned that his own four-year-old was in preschool. Natasha realized that Cecilia needed more social interaction with children her age to prepare her for kindergarten.
Natasha was at a difficult point in her life. She was going into her second year of being a stay-at-home mom after being laid off from her job. Natasha was struggling both financially and emotionally.
Thankfully, she learned about Westside Head Start soon after. A kind woman she met at a children’s group told her about the program and encouraged her to apply.
Westside Head Start Brings a Family Together
Her first experience with Catholic Charities Westside Head Start as a parent was life-changing. The program was in tune with what her daughter and family needed. Natasha began to get involved in everything that Head Start offered.
“This involvement gave me purpose each day and allowed [me] to gain confidence to return to the workplace and so much more,” said Natasha.
Natasha’s daughters have developed social and emotional skills and found a love for learning. They continue to excel in school, and Natasha credits Head Start.
A New Sense of Involvement for Parents
The program has given her husband a sense of pride and accomplishment, as he has been able to play an active role in his children’s education. Natasha’s oldest daughter gained a sense of community that she had never experienced before and now has a heart for serving others.
“I also didn't foresee how the Head Start staff, parents, and families would impact my growth in who I am today. The great examples of strength and resilience motivate me in everything I do, both personally and professionally,” adds Natasha.
Parents Benefit Just as Much as Children
The experience challenged Natasha to think about her own future. She realized she had stopped making long-term goals for herself and worked to change that. Her goals include earning a master’s degree and participating in a marathon. The value of serving others is one she deeply resonates with, so she plans to focus on volunteering and giving back when she retires.
If you’d like to help create a brighter future for Westside Head Start students and their families, donating online or providing needed items through our Amazon Charity List are easy ways to make an impact.