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When you think of Head Start, preschoolers automatically come to mind. Children coming from different circumstances and backgrounds are given the chance to grow through cognitive learning activities with other students. The Council for Economic Opportunites in Greater Cleveland is adding to that narrative by providing parents with similar opportunities.

Yomarie Gonzalez is one of those parents. Gonzalez became familiar with CEOGC’s Head Start program back in 2014 when her middle daughter was enrolled at the Willard location. She was a stay-at-home mom when she heard about the program and decided to see what it was all about.

“I was staying at home with my daughter, Ymannie, looking for a place that she could go and I found Willard’s Head Start program,” she said. “It turned out to be a great place for my daughter and I had no idea all the things I’d get involved in.”

As her daughter began attending regularly, Gonzalez was asked to attend a parent meeting where she learned about the Policy Council. CEOGC’s Policy Council is a group of parents that works with Head Start program management and the Council for Economic Opportunities’ Board of Directors to review, analyze and make recommendations to improve the program. Each center also forms a Parent Committee at the beginning of each school year. As a parent with a child enrolled at the center, you are automatically a member of this parent organization. The Parent Committees elect Officers (Chairperson, Vice Chairperson, Secretary, and Treasurer) and conduct monthly meetings to discuss activities and events going on at their particular center. This committee elected Gonzalez as Chair and she’s been in this position for three years.

“I was nervous about going to the meeting initially, but my husband convinced me to go and I’m glad I did,” said Gonzalez. “I joined in 2014 and I was voted in as Chair. I had to go through a vetting process having to attend multiple trainings where I learned about the agency and how Head Start operates before it was official. It’s crazy to think that I’m almost done with my second term!”

Since getting involved in the Head Start program, Gonzalez has seen growth, not only in her children but also in her own professional development. She’s grown as a wife, mother, and leader.

Yomarie with her three daughters

“The Policy Council has had a profound impact on my life,” she said. “I’ve grown as a person and have learned so much about business and leadership as I now have to lead meetings and do public speaking. I feel empowered and that’s an incredible feeling.”

Being appointed chair comes with many responsibilities. Despite this position being completely voluntary, sometimes it can feel more like a full-time job. A job that Gonzalez doesn’t mind doing.

“I travel a lot to conferences and conventions to acquire information and bring it back to the council,” said Gonzalez. “I am volunteering my time, and it’s a lot, but this position has afforded me an opportunity to travel all across the country and I love it.”

Gonzalez’s time with the Policy Council is quickly coming to an end; not only is her youngest daughter moving on to Kindergarten from Willard, but after 5 consecutive years, members of the council can no longer run. She’s hopeful, however, to remain active with the agency.

“My time is almost up, but I want to continue serving in some capacity,” she said. “I love what this agency has done for me and my family and I want to remain a part of it as long as I can.”

If you’re the parent of a Head Start student and you would like to learn more about involvement opportunities, CLICK HERE for more info!