Tameka Perrien is the first of three generations in her family to attend the Head Start early education program. But, Tameka’s experience with Head Start didn’t stop there; she’s been involved as a staff member or parent volunteer since her first of seven children was born in 1993.
She grew up on the east coast, where she attended a Head Start program as a child. Her first two children attended the same Head Start program she did, and they even had the same teachers she had, which she laughs about today. “The teachers would say, ‘Yeah, you are just like your mom.’”
When Tameka and her family moved to Arizona, the first thing she looked for was a Head Start program, which is how she became involved with Catholic Charities Westside Head Start (WSHS).
Tameka has been a member of the policy council, which is the parent-led, governing body for WSHS, and has held positions as Secretary and Vice Chairperson. She is now the Chairperson for the council.
WSHS has changed her life, and the lives of her children, for the better, says Tameka. Her older children now range in age from 25 to just 1 year old. She even has a grandchild in the program now, which she spearheaded, after having such success with her own children.
Head Start Prepares Children for School
Studies show that Head Start helps children dramatically improve their cognitive skills, including reading, physical/fine motor skills and social and emotional skills. In fact, children who have attended Head Start do far better throughout school than those who don’t.
For Tameka, it’s the everyday, little things that make a difference. Her 1-year old daughter is currently in the home-based program, where a WSHS specialist comes to her home once a week and spends time preparing her and her daughter for entering Early Head Start at age 3. They work on fine motor skills and even talk about proper nutrition.
“My kids were reading chapter books way before the other kids,” she says. “They are ready to learn. They love school, and sometimes I get sad because I feel like they don’t need me. But, you know, they don’t need me because they’re so smart.”
Head Start Serves Low Income Families
More than 1,100 children were assisted in the WSHS program last year. Most families qualify for no-cost services due to low income. With enrollment comes regular hearing and vision screenings, meals and snacks, and even free books to help their child learn to read, plus more. Parent/teacher communication is the foundation of the program.
Tameka wants parents to know that it takes their involvement and interaction to ensure success for their children. Parents are strongly encouraged to be involved in parent committees, policy councils, events and day-to-day volunteer opportunities.
If you, or someone you know, would like to apply for WSHS or get more information, visit us at CatholicCharitiesAZ.org and click on “Westside Head Start.”
If you are interested in donating to help provide supplies, classroom upgrades, and help us expand our services to help even more low-income families, please go to our secure online donation form.