By Michael H. O'Donnell | firstname.lastname@example.org
POCATELLO — Three women who dedicate time and effort to the Pocatello-Chubbuck School District's Head Start program will receive national recognition in Nashville, Tennessee, this week.
After receiving Idaho and Region 10 awards earlier this year, Kaylin White has been named national Support Staff of the Year winner; Farhana Hibbert, Parent of the Year; and Gabriela Gonzalez, the Ron Herndon Head Start Parent Scholarship recipient. White and Hibbert will be in Nashville on Thursday at the National Head Start Association Conference and Expo to receive their awards and accept the scholarship on behalf of Gonzalez.
Both White and Hibbert will receive plaques and $500 awards.
“I'm honored, and I think it reflects well on our program in Pocatello,” White said.
“It's very humbling, and I'm excited,” Hibbert said, adding, “It doesn't mean I'm the perfect parent.”
While that may be true, Hibbert has been the perfect example of a parent who has volunteered years of effort to see that the Head Start program is successful. Four of Hibbert's children have benefited from their experiences as students of the Head Start pre-school program in Pocatello.
Hibbert, who now manages the regional office for U.S. Sen. Mike Crapo, first volunteered for Head Start when she was a 16-year-old freshman at Idaho State University back in 1988.
“I love working with children,” Hibbert said.
In addition to completing a bachelor's degree in biology and a master's in organizational communications at ISU, Hibbert has six children ages 22 to 16 months. Through it all, she has stayed closely connected to Head Start. Her oldest son, Caleb, lives with autism and epilepsy.
Hibbert is a native of Pakistan and moved to Puerto Rico with her parents to escape violence in the Middle East. Her parents then became U.S. citizens, and Hibbert said she has a strong love for this nation.
“I am grateful for the freedoms I have in is country, including the freedom to marry for love, to pursue an education, run for office and to be a mother,” Hibbert said.
Hibbert has volunteered time in Head Start classrooms and served on committees to help shape policies and apply for grants.
Head Start is a federally funded pre-school program that prepares students for academic endeavors and supports families who struggle because of economic situations or lack of educational attainment. Idaho has no state-supported pre-school programs, and kindergarten is not mandatory.
Although the Head Start and Early Intervention programs that share the Lincoln Center on Oakwood Drive in Pocatello are federally funded, Head Start operates under the umbrella of School District 25 and serves children in Pocatello and Chubbuck — children who live in poverty.
“All our families are low-income,” said Parent and Community Engagement manager White.
Head Start Director Cathy Brey said the program is designed to create a better future for all families involved, including parents and children.
“It's a true generational program,” Brey said.
Gonzalez, who will be receiving a national scholarship of $2,500 to help pay for her education at ISU, would agree.
Gonzalez' involvement in Head Start began when her son first enrolled in the pre-school 15 years ago. He will graduate from high school this month. And her youngest child, who turns 3, will be following in the brother's footsteps as a Head Start student next year.
Gonzalez will finish her bachelor's degree in medical science technology.
“I am a believer in giving back to the community,” Gonzalez wrote in her biography for the Head Start scholarship. “For me, Head Start not only helped me with education of my children, but with programs to keep my children and family healthy.”
White, winner of the national support staff award, has worked in the Pocatello-Chubbuck Head Start program for 13 years. She holds certifications in family development and child care and earned her bachelor's degree in criminal justice.
It's White's job to coordinate Head Start activities with parents and staff.
White created two programs used at the Head Start program, FRED (Fathers Reading Every Day) and EMILY (Enthusiastic Mothers Inspiring Literacy in Youth).
“It's been very rewarding seeing staff grow in their understanding of the importance of father involvement,” White said.
Brey said the key to a good Head Start program is outstanding staff and volunteers as well as a clear understanding of the overall goals.
“We're getting families ready for success in school,” Brey said. “We want to instill lifelong learning in parents and children.”