When an organization seeks to put forth credibility, it tends to look into its past and find people and events that shed light upon the trustworthiness of that organization. So when UAMS Head Start was looking for individuals to speak about their program and its history, they couldn't have picked a better spokesperson than Georgia Walker.
Ms. Walker has a long and colorful history with the Head Start program here in Arkansas. Most would think that it started with her twenty grandchildren or even with her own kids, but you would need to go back much further than that. As it turns out, Georgia's mother, brother and sister, and several members of her family have been involved with UAMS Head Start.
Georgia's mother, Dorothy Walker, was a big part of the Head Start program in the state of Arkansas in the 60's, 70's and 80's. But she also played a bigger role on the national stage. "As a matter of fact my mother was on the National Head Start Board, and so I have been hearing about Head Start all my life." she said as she gazed at a plaque her mother had received in appreciation from Head Start back in 1982.
"My brother and sister were one of the first recipients of Head Start forty-six years ago."
Because she was too old to begin Head Start when it originated, Georgia wasn't able to be directly involved in the program as a student. But she has certainly seen the effects of it on her family members. Both of her younger siblings were examples that the system worked. Georgia's sister, who lives in Minnesota, and her brother, who lives here, have greatly benefitted from the program. "Both of them are doing well."
The Second Generation
Once Georgia was old enough to have children of her own, she took her deep rooted beliefs that Head Start really works to heart. A mother of nine, she has placed every one of her children in the program and has seen it pay off for her and her kids in the long run. The 38 year old is working as a lawyer in Washington, D.C., her 35 year old is an x-ray technician in Memphis, and her 21 year old is working on becoming an Insurance Agent.
One of her daughters, who lives here locally, has also been successful.
"My 32 year old is a Psychologist for the Little Rock School District. She went forward and now she has completed college. She has her bachelors and now she's working on her Masters in psychology. I had contributed all of that to Head Start. "
All in all, she has seen a lot of success in her family due to the fact that she got her nine children involved in the Head Start program and watched them progress at a faster rate than what they normally would have. It seems to have been a tried and true method as she has seen little change in the way the children have been taught over the years. When asked about whether she has seen any major changes to the system over the years, she mentions that they have stayed relatively the same.
"It has stayed the same. It's all about the children and the families, you know? They have a lot of programs for the families, I mean, what the families can use for the children, and it helps them out."
A Third Generation
As Georgia has seen the positive effects on both her siblings as well as her own children, she naturally has big plans for the newest members of her family, her grandchildren.
She has a total of twenty grandkids, and although a lot of them went through the program, we will focus on two of them here, 6 year old Amiya and 6 year old Jeceven. The two are cousins and were a part of UAMS Head Start at Nathaniel Hills East. Both are currently in First Grade at Carver Magnet.
Georgia has seen major improvements in her grandchildren, and can see the social differences between them and others that were never in Head Start. "They know how to introduce themselves and I contribute that to Head Start, because one thing they do learn is the recognition of their names, and to stand up and tell who they are. Most children are shy."
The program can also help re-evaluate a problem that may have been misdiagnosed earlier, such as speech problems. Head Start helps the families diagnose and treat speech problems in preschool children. They also help find contributing factors to the speech problem and educate the family on how to help their child with these types of diagnosis.
Earlier, two other granddaughters had gone through the system. Their favorite teacher worked with them on their language and social skills, but also encouraged them to do other things they had a passion for. In their case, it was dancing. It helped to create more well-rounded children.
Georgia has come to see why placing a child in Head Start is a good decision, even in small things.
"I used to wonder why they asked that question at the bottom of the forms, if they had ever attended Head Start, so I was proud to check "yes" and put them into different category."
Although she no longer has kids of her own in the program, Georgia still volunteers with Head Start. "I enjoy it and just go in and support the parents and their children. They call me and I will go." Along with volunteering, Georgia also attends the policy council meetings once a month.
In total, she has had twenty-two members of her family over three generations attend UAMS Head Start in Little Rock. And she's not going to stop there. "I still have two (grandkids) to go through, they weren't old enough to go this year."
After being around the program for forty-five years, Georgia Walker has definitely seen the benefits of enrolling a child in Head Start. "Please do not hesitate to enroll your child. It's a good program. It is an advantage for your child, and it's just not for children it's for families as well."
"I think this is a wonderful program."