September 2, 2022 by HCDE-Texas
For eight years, Family Services Provider Marcela Forero has been a guiding light for families in HCDE’s Head Start program. A native of Colombia, Forero—HCDE’s September Employee of the Month—has leveraged her Spanish-speaking skills and warm heart to provide support services for HCDE’s youngest learners and their families.
“My main job is helping families, enrolling them, seeing if the family qualifies for the program, and helping them complete the application,” said Forero. “Then, when the students are accepted, we start working with the students at the school and with their families at home.”
Head Start family services providers recruit and enroll students into the Head Start program, provide parent-driven, family-centered case management services, and promote parent, family, and community engagement in the Head Start program.
Forero is currently assigned to Pugh Head Start in the Denver Harbor community.
“I love to work with families. I love to work with kids and help them to achieve goals,” she said. “I tell my husband, if I go around this neighborhood, I know more people than in my own neighborhood because I’ve known some families for eight years.”
As an immigrant herself, Forero identifies with the struggles of many Hispanic families in the Pugh Head Start community.
“I love to work with Hispanic families because I know they need a lot,” she says in a thick accent. “Sometimes they need a little push to continue to grow up in this country, and I feel that this job helps me to do that.”
By all accounts, she has been successful on this front.
“She seems to have a very large number of parents involved in the family connection and the parent committee meetings,” says Family Services Coordinator Michele Anderson Nwokobia. “There’s a lot of parent engagement here, and it’s attributed to Marcela just being genuine with the families. That’s very important in this line of work. When you are working with children and families, you have to love what you do because it comes through.”
One example of her effort to help families can be seen in Head Start’s partnership with Bates Collision Centers and its annual Responsible Parenting Award. Each year, two deserving HCDE Head Start families are each gifted with a rehabbed car in time for the holidays. Parents are nominated by Head Start staff.
“I have been very blessed,” said Forero. “During my eight years at Head Start, I have had three families who have received a car.”
The three families were nominated by Forero, including one of last year’s winners, Alionuska Montalvo Perez, whose son attends Pugh Head Start.
Colleagues describe Forero as a team player who always rises to the occasion and has creative ideas. She often supports other campuses with family support services while maintaining her caseload at Pugh.
Forero and her husband moved to the United States in 2002 to provide a better life for her children, a son and a daughter who are now both engineers. In Colombia, she worked in human resources before opening a daycare center to spend more time with her children. When they moved stateside, she knew she wanted to work with children and families.
“HCDE gave me the opportunity to grow up here,” she said. “I worked with another Head Start grantee, and it was good. But here it’s better. I always feel like I have a family here.”