A Head Start in the Right Direction - Merriah's Story

Merriah Drinnin and Boys 3

Because of Merriah’s determination to succeed, she utilized local Community Action programs provided by SENCA, such as Head Start and Family Outreach.  The resources, provided by professional and caring staff, not only helped Merriah's family during some challenging times, they also helped each of them prepare for a better future.

Since 2010, Merriah’s three sons, Atticus, Sawyer and August have each participated, and successfully completed, the local Head Start program provided by SENCA at the Nebraska City Full-Day Center. While each of the boys spent two years gaining knowledge and skills to help them be kindergarten ready, Merriah, a single parent, donated countless hours of her time giving back to the program she whole heartily believes in. Knowing that Head Start is required to obtain a minimum of 20% in-kind donations to meet funding guidelines, Merriah was happy to volunteer her time where needed, in the classroom, assisting with activities and events, or by serving as a valuable member of the SENCA Head Start Policy Council. 

“I started participating in SENCA programs in 2010 when my first son, Atticus, was a Head Start student,” shares Merriah.  At that time the family was low-income, without a stable place to live and not enough money for Merriah to complete her education. “During the two years Atticus was enrolled in Head Start our family also qualified for services provided through SENCA’s outreach program.”  Merriah stated her family received nutritional support and resources, such as rent assistance, specifically designed to assist low-income families experiencing emergency situations. “I met with the trained outreach staff member who provided case management and worked with me to set and accomplish life-changing goals.”

As a result of Merriah’s determination, combined with the assistance provided by SENCA, not only did each of the boys receive what they needed to enter kindergarten ready to be successful, the educational meetings provided by Head Start helped Merriah strengthen vital parenting skills that are especially important for single parents. With an on-going focus of being there for her boys Merriah was able to start a career with the local historical society where she has worked part-time the past five years. This allowed Merriah time to volunteer for Head Start while Sawyer and August participated in the program and, because of her love of history, she was able to start classes toward a degree, maintaining a 4.0 GPA.    

Then in 2020 Merriah made the decision to take a year away from her classes. She had started to question whether or not she was on the right course with a degree in history, just as the COVID pandemic impacted our daily lives. With schools closing down the last two months of the 2019/2020 school year, it was a time Merriah concentrated on her family, making sure she was there for her three boys. It was during this challenging time witnessing the increasing struggles that many families, especially children, were facing that Merriah made the decision that when she resumed classes her emphasis would be on attaining a degree in child psychology. With all three boys back in school, and her youngest son, August, now in Kindergarten, Merriah’s hope is to re-enroll in classes.   

Merriah’s family is a true reflection of what SENCA’s on-going mission of “improving lives and building strong communities” can achieve. Because of Merriah’s determination to succeed, she utilized local services provided by SENCA, such as Head Start and Outreach, to help ensure that her family had access to the resources they needed to meet their basic needs that also helped them prepare for a better future. 

“Without SENCA I am not sure our family would be where we are now,” shares Merriah.  “We have stability, a home, a decent income, good grades, two vehicles and zero debt.”  “Everything SENCA has done for our family has been helpful.  I praise SENCA programs and services, along with their trained and caring staff and I recommend SENCA to many other struggling parents.”     

Pictured:  Merriah, Atticus (14), Sawyer (9) and August (5)