Caren Calhoun is being honored as a Champion of Change for her commitment to delivering on the promise of Head Start in her community, helping to educate and care for our youngest, most vulnerable children.
I am honored to be a part of the White House Champions of Change program. I truly feel that the children, families, staff and partners that I work with on a daily basis are really the change agents. One of the biggest lessons that I have learned in the last decade is that we cannot do this work alone and we don’t have all the answers. It truly does take a village to raise a child and that begins with strong relationships and a shared commitment to the mission at all levels of an organization.
Spending a year in Washington, D.C. as a 2008-2009 Head Start Fellow was a life-changing experience which allowed me a leadership journey of great growth, both personally and professionally. Upon completion of my commitment, I was able to return to my community with a renewed passion in a different capacity as Executive Director of Tulsa Educare. Tulsa Educare’s mission is to help break the cycle of poverty with a flagship program in very early childhood education and through transfer of best practices to other Tulsa programs. Educare is a part of a national learning network of like-minded individuals and agencies that are attempting to make a difference in the lives of very young, vulnerable children and their families by understanding the significant value of shifting the odds byinvesting in the development of a skilled early childhood workforce and leveraging private-public partnerships. Every child deserves a fair shot at a good education.
Educare is a research-based program that prepares young, at-risk children for school. It is a school for children birth to kindergarten that nurtures early learning and sends a bold message about the value of investing in the first five years of a child’s life. By combining best practices in early childhood education and collaborative partnerships with Head Start, the local school district, universities and healthcare providers, Educare is able to enhance the early learning curriculum with wrap-around family engagement services such as parental education classes, crisis intervention and counseling, medical care and workforce development programs. The Educare network of early childhood facilities is helping to shape a new model for delivering education and care to children most at risk of school failure and is serving as a catalyst for broader change throughout the nation.
Last month I was able to attend the graduation ceremony for 12 of our Educare mothers as they walked across the stage to get their Certified Nursing Assistant Certificate as part of their journey to become Registered Nurses. The cohort prior to this one had just begun clinical rotation after completion of the blocks of their Licensed Practical Nursing classes. To be able to visit with a parent that comes from a background where high school graduation isn’t expected and see that they now have a career goal to be a Registered Nurse, while the child is saying that they want to study and go to college like their mommy -- now that’s success!
Caren Calhoun is the Executive Director of Tulsa Educare.