My name is Melinda Calhoun. Growing up, I came from a broken home. I lived with my mother and three older sisters. Times were very hard then for a single mother and four children. I can remember the stories my mother told me about looking for a job to support her children. She needed a job, but she also needed childcare for her youngest daughter. She applied for a job at BRAD Head Start and while she was there, she filled out an application for her youngest child to attend Head Start. That child was me. I was three years old at that time. I went to Head Start until I transitioned to kindergarten.
My mother continued working for Head Start for twenty one years. During her twenty one years of service to Head Start, she had seven grandchildren and saw six of those grandchildren transition to kindergarten. Two of those grandchildren are my sons. My oldest son just graduated from High School and made the honor roll throughout his 12 years of school. My youngest son just graduated from kindergarten; he also made good grades in school. I feel like I owe many of their successes to my mother and their Head Start teachers. Without the Head Start opportunity, I would not be where I am today.
I started working for Head Start in June of 2001 as an Early Head Start floater. I was not satisfied with this position in Early Head Start; I wanted more. I wanted to be an Early Head Start caregiver and to achieve this I had to have some college classes. I didn’t, but I was willing to take the risk and enter school. With that dream in mind, I enrolled in a CDA class. I completed the CDA class in December of 2001. While the class was interesting, it just wasn’t enough. I still wanted more. I had a dream and I was going to accomplishment that dream. My mother always taught me to strive for what I wanted in life. I went on to enroll in college classes at Black River Technical College. I couldn’t have done that without the help and financial support of Head Start. I was married, a full time employee, a full time student and the mother of two children. While working on my associate’s degree, the opening of an Early Head Start caregiver came open. I applied for the job and I got it. I graduated with my associate’s degree in December 2003.
I graduated with 2 of my older sisters; they also received their Associates Degree at the same time. It was such an honor to be walking down the aisle to receive that diploma knowing I had 2 sisters receiving their degree also. My mother sat in the audience with the biggest smile on her face. The opportunity and support came to take more classes so I enrolled in classes for my Bachelor’s degree through Arkansas Tech University in Russellville. I graduated in August 2006 with a Bachelors Degree. Another opportunity came along for me while I was working toward this degree, this time in the central office. I took on the position of Health & Safety Manager. I have been in this position for two and a half years.
Debbie, my oldest sister was a teacher at James W. Graves Head Start in Rector. She later became the center director. She worked in that position until she was diagnosed with throat cancer in May 2003. She continued living the Head Start dream until January of 2004 when she could no longer fight cancer. Her Head Start dream had to come to an end. The outpouring of support from the Head Start family was unbelievable. She was the big sister of my family and I looked up to her for everything. After 15 years of service to Head Start, Debbie passed away in January 2008. My family was given the news that James W. Graves Head Start and Early Head Start would like to do something to honor Debbie. The center took donations to give a scholarship to a Head Start/Early Head Start parent in her name. Debbie would have been so proud of this. The staff said that was a way to keep Debbie’s memory alive. She was always willing to go that extra mile for her family, co-workers and most all for the children.
Another sister, Brenda, also received her associates and bachelor’s degree with the financial help and support from Head Start. Brenda started out volunteering for the program. Little children were her passion. She then started to work for Corning Head Start in 1999. Brenda loves her job, and she enjoys all the children. In 2007, Brenda was nominated and selected as Arkansas Head Start Teacher of the Year. This was such an honor for her. She continues to hold the position as Teacher for BRAD Head Start in Corning.
Coming from a broken home, I never had the opportunity to travel. I have now traveled to other states for Head Start conferences. I have grown in my professional knowledge of the program and I enjoy serving children and families. Without Head Start, these would have been experiences I would have never had. I feel like every child needs and deserves the Head Start opportunities that my family, my children and I have had. I hope to continue a long and successful working relationship with Head Start. Someday, I may be writing some additional success stories about my sons. Who knows where they will go, but with the Head Start experience behind them the sky is the limit!