April 29, 2022 by HCDE-Texas
For mother of five Marina Argueta, the best thing about Head Start was her peace of mind knowing that her child was cared for and given opportunities to learn and grow.
“It helps a lot of parents with low income because you can’t trust just anybody with your kids,” she said. At Head Start, you know they’re learning something and being productive.”
Argueta had always been a stay-at-home mom. However, when her three youngest children—who were all one year apart in age—were getting ready to start elementary school, she wanted to go back to work to bring in extra income to the household. She was becoming discouraged by the lack of affordable childcare options in east Houston when she found Head Start.
Argueta’s daughter, Amy Alfaro, the second youngest of the five siblings, attended Pugh Head Start from 2012 to 2015. It was the right choice, says Argueta.
“I think it helped her a lot. She started young, so she learned how to read quickly,” she said. “Head Start teaches them their colors, shapes, and ABCs so that when they graduate from pre-k, they’re already familiar with them and are open to more ideas.”
Twelve-year-old Amy, now a sixth-grader at Cedar Bayou Junior High School in Goose Creek Consolidated School District, looks forward to school and cannot decide which subject is her favorite.
“Is band a subject?” asked the budding clarinetist. “I like band and art. I always did art when I was a little kid.”
Amy’s love for art stayed with her through elementary school, and now she hones her craft through digital art, self-portraits, and painted portraits of historical figures. She recently painted Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. as part of a Black History Month project, which she describes as “pretty cool.”
Though she left Head Start for kindergarten nearly eight years ago, Amy still has fond memories of her teacher, Ms. Horn, and the fun she had with her peers singing and dancing, drawing, reading stories, and riding tricycles during recess.
The experience brought the shy young girl out of her shell.
“It helped her a lot to communicate and socialize with other kids,” she said. “Ms. Horn socialized with her, too.”
The bubbly soon-to-be teen confirmed her mother’s sentiment.
“I talk a lot,” she said matter-of-factly.
Argueta remembers the teacher’s influence on her daughter.
“Ms. Horn was a really good teacher. She had the patience to teach Amy,” she said. “She was very involved with her, and she had really good communication with the parents. She got me involved, and I would volunteer to help with activities or projects.”
Through Argueta’s regular involvement with Pugh Head Start and the Head Start Policy Council, she connected her sister, Nancy, with a job opening in Head Start’s central office in 2013. Nearly 10 years later, Nancy continues to serve students and families.
The connections gained through Pugh were beneficial for the whole family. The community they established still manages to stay in contact, even after her family’s relocation to Baytown.
“I still communicate with some of the parents I met at Head Start,” said Argueta. “The parents keep in touch, and we invite each other to parties and social gatherings, so the kids still see each other.”
Now that most of her children are established and doing well in school, Argueta says she plans to enroll her 3-year-old son, Isaac, in Head Start and find a career she loves.
“I am so grateful for Head Start. It gives me the opportunity to do so many things,” she said. “I wish I had done this with all my kids, and I would tell other parents to do it.”