Congratulations, Class of 2019!
June brings graduation season, and most of our attention is taken up by the hordes of high school grads in their finery flocking to the Edmonton Convention Centre, just down the road from e4c’s main office in Alex Taylor School.
However, senior high students are not the only graduates that June brings. e4c’s Early Head Start and Head Start programs also have a summer graduation, celebrating students who are prepared to take on Kindergarten in the fall.
At the beginning of the year, students in e4c’s Head Start program are often faced with the challenges that many of us fear when heading into a networking event, social setting, or classroom – the fear of making new friends, not knowing anyone, or nervousness surrounding a presentation or public speaking initiative. Combined with these typical hesitations, some of the students entering the e4c Head Start program also have speech barriers, or other needs.
e4c Head Start programming helps these children get ahead, so they are well-equipped to handle future social and educational opportunities.
As they near graduation, thanks to the wrap-around supports offered by the program, many students are speaking complex sentences, minding their manners, or just sitting still for a snack; enhancing their problem solving skills, and participating in group activities. all milestones celebrated in the program! The team includes Family Support Workers, who support families throughout the year – sharing resources, offering supports, and helping families navigate the form-focused world of public education, in preparation for the fall. In addition to the Family Support Worker, e4c’s Head Start programming also offers Speech Language Pathologists and an Occupational Therapist, creating wrap-around, individualized supports that help each child meet their personal goals and milestones. e4c recognizes that education initiatives extend beyond the classrooms. Teachers and Educational Assistants work within the classrooms, while a Home Educator supports families within their home environments, to work towards their goals. These initiatives ensure the greatest success while meeting families where they are at on their educational journey.
Tessa, 5, struggled with speech development and conversation prior to attending e4c’s Head Start. Now, she’s a social butterfly who “talks in big sentences with fancy words.”
Mom laughs as she continues, “She used to sit and pout when she didn’t get something she wanted, she wouldn’t say what she wanted to say. Now, she says what she needs!” These small wins amount to larger communication milestones and help with anger management, interpersonal communication, and making friends.
One parent notes that prior to entering e4c’s Head Start program, her child didn’t understand the concept of sharing; when someone would want to play with a toy she had played with previously, she would yell and scream that it was “my toy! No!”
Thanks to the education through play experiential learning that the Head Start program offers, her daughter now knows how to communicate her needs, sharing that “I’m playing with that, thank you!” and how to share her belongings.
This, she says, is a milestone and a skill that her daughter will carry with her throughout her life.
Students are not the only beneficiaries of e4c’s Head Start program. Parents have the opportunity to participate in weekly Parent Groups, learning financial literacy skills, cooking, communications, and other vital life skills that they can share with their growing families. One mom noted that she looks forward to the weekly parent groups for the socialization.
“Having the opportunity to sit and chat, uninterrupted, is hard when you’re a mom of 5,” she laughed, bouncing her 9-month old on her knee.
“You’re always shuttling the kids to soccer practice, or taekwondo, or a friend’s house. You don’t really get that time for yourself.” These opportunities provide parents with a much-needed break to recharge and engage in conversation with their peers. One mom shared that she loved the cooking opportunities provided to the parents because they were applicable, versatile, and cost effective while being nutritious. Sydney’s mom, Lisa, shared that on the weeks that she couldn’t make it to parent group, the teachers and follow up support workers sent information home on the subject that was studied, and information on free activities in the area.
Having watched their children grow over the past ten months, the parents were beaming with pride when asked about their children’s achievements. Their lives have been transformed, one mom shared. Their children look forward to attending every day, even if they’re sick and need to stay home. “It’s made my life easier – such a blessing knowing that she’s here and supported mentally and emotionally,” explains Sydney’s mom, Lisa. She also shared that prior to entering the e4c Head Start program, Sydney was very intuitive to when she [Lisa] was upset. “It’s almost like she has a sixth sense of my feelings…she tunes into my emotions and asks ‘Mommy, why are you sad?’” Attending programming has allowed Sydney to just be a kid – away from the stresses of her parents’ relationship.
“She’s more confident, emotionally stable, and communicates more.”
For some, e4c’s Head Start program is just a way of life. Their older children have attended, or their younger children are looking forward to attending. One mom, Dunai shared that her eldest son, now ten, went through Head Start many years ago, the same program that his 4-year-old sibling will graduate from in just a few short days. Another mom commented that she found out about the program through her neighborhood community centre. “All I had to do was call and set up an appointment, and I was in!” Her daughter, Talyn, is three and a half and is looking forward to coming in the fall. She’s really excited that it’s “her turn” and that she will be riding the big yellow bus to school.
Though parents are beaming with excitement about their children’s achievements, saying goodbye and moving on to other schools and programs is bittersweet.
“It feels like we have a little family here, that’s what we’ll miss the most.” – Lisa, mom of Sydney (4)
The Head Start program doesn’t offer programming during the summer months, but Family Support Workers remain on site to assist families with questions, information, or support through July and August. Day programs for families and children are also offered on occasion, to facilitate community connection and to ease the dog days of summer.
Each graduate is gifted with a basket to facilitate continuous learning throughout the summer, with a few treats for the caregivers, too! One mom was exclaiming over the measuring cup and healthy recipes, and another flipped through a storybook on Disney Princess stories.
It’s the sense of wonderment, support, and family that the parents will miss the most. Congratulations to all graduates! We can’t wait to see what the future will bring for you. Thank you for walking alongside us on this journey.
For more information, or to get connected to Early Learning services, email firstname.lastname@example.org – our offices are open all summer long!