Diana’s story focuses on her career journey within the program and the health related turn of events that led her to apply for a part-time job as a cook and van driver more than 23 years ago.
Whenever we think of Head Start, most of us think of the preschool children, age 3 to 5, who participate in the program. However, without the behind the scenes work of the entire Head Start team, this remarkable comprehensive child development program would not be possible.
Since 1968, Southeast Nebraska Community Action Partnership (SENCA) has provided a Head Start program for low-income children and their families. A successful Head Start Program requires dedicated and engaged staff as well as volunteers. Each cook, bus driver, teacher assistant, teacher, family service advocate, program coordinator, and program director helps ensure children have the skills necessary to enter kindergarten ready to be successful while providing much needed support to the entire family.
Diana was born and raised in the Nebraska City area. As a young adult Diana found steady employment working in local sewing factories. However, after a decade of day-after-day of repetitive work, Diana developed job related health issues and found herself in vocational rehab. Her rehab advisor recommended that she apply at the SENCA Head Start in Nebraska City. Diana met with Betty Lippold, Head Start Director at that time, and was hired for the job.
Within three years of accepting the program’s part-time position, Diana’s lifelong dream of becoming a teacher was about to come true. SENCA received grant funding that paid for Diana, plus six additional staff members, to take the required college classes that would earn them an Associate Arts Degree in Early Childhood Education. “In high school I dreamed of going to college to become a teacher” shares Diana, “but unfortunately it was not something my parents could afford.” More than a decade later, as a wife and mother of two young boys, SENCA Head Start was going to help Diana’s dream come true.
“We were all working full-time, 40 hours a week, so we took some of the classes at night and some during the summer,” Diana commented, “It took five years to receive my degree, but thanks to SENCA, it was worth it to finally become a certified pre-school teacher!” Diana worked hard to achieve a life-long dream of becoming a teacher and thankfully, because of the funding provided through SENCA, she and her family didn’t have the added worry of student loan debt.
Diana spent 17 years in the classroom working with fellow Head Start staff to provide low-income children with skills that would enable them to enter kindergarten ready to be successful. Teaching and strengthening skills that focus on critical areas of childhood growth such as: social emotional; language; literacy; math; cognitive and physical. SENCA Head Start teachers rate each child’s development three times during the school year to ensure they meet or exceed age appropriate development. One of Diana’s greatest joys as a teacher was working with the children watching them learn, grow, and accomplish new tasks while giving them the hope to one day achieve dreams of their own.
While Diana enjoyed every aspect of teaching, she made the decision three years ago to change positions and work directly with Head Start families as a Family Service Advocate. Diana’s experience as a teacher, combined with her continued commitment to the SENCA Head Start Program, is instrumental in strengthening families and ensuring successful outcomes, one child at a time.