July 6, 2023

Categorised in:

LYNN — State Secretary of Education Patrick Tutwiler announced that the Healey-Driscoll administration is putting $15 million in grants toward 28 organizations in the Commonwealth that offer Early Head Start and Head Start programs. “This funding is a deep investment in the state’s early education and care workforce, and an investment in the great work that Head Start programs do across the state,” Tutwiler, the former superintendent of Lynn Public Schools, said Thursday at the Jack Robinson Child Care Center. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Head Start and Early Head Start programs support children in their first five years and their parents.

Head Start is the “ultimate” two-generational approach, Department of Early Education and Care Commissioner Amy Kershaw said. She described the 28 grants as an important investment. “We’ll be able to provide additional support for our workforce, recruiting and retaining qualified staff to work in our classrooms to make sure families have access to these essential services, and perhaps most importantly at this moment in time, investing in social, emotional, and behavioral health for our kids,” Kershaw said.

Lynn Economic Opportunity (LEO), which will receive one of the grants, has offered these programs since 1965 and LEO serves around 450 families per year, according to its website.

At the announcement Thursday, LEO Family Service Worker Aleah Tillotson talked about her experience with Head Start. “My journey at Head Start started 11 years ago as a parent,” Tillotson said. “I had a voucher for my daughter, Zara, to attend the center at the time because we were homeless.” Having her daughter receive that spot made Tillotson happy because she knew how great the program was for kids, she said. “What I didn’t know at that time was the impact that it would have on me,” she said. When her daughter started the program, Tillotson was assigned a family service worker, she said. “Her role was to support me as a parent, which was connecting me with community resources — a lot of them I was unaware of at that time — partnering with me to create goals and work toward things that were meaningful to me, as well as advocating for myself and for Zara,” Tillotson said. At that time, she said she began to volunteer in classrooms and applied to be a substitute teacher. “Once I achieved that goal, I worked toward educational goals,” Tillotson said.

She started taking classes at North Shore Community College while moving up the ranks to become the lead teacher of a classroom. She obtained her associate degree and then went on to Salem State University. All of her education costs were covered by LEO, she said. “I realized that while I loved being in the classroom, I felt a connection to work with families because of Head Start’s impact on my own life,” Tillotson said. “I applied for this family service worker position so I could work with families, and that led to me applying for and accepting a position as a family services manager.”

A year and a half ago, she became a first-time home owner. She just recently graduated with her bachelor’s degree from Salem State University and is planning to continue her education at SSU in the fall, she said.

“I know that for me, this started because of my child being accepted here at LEO Head Start,” Tillotson said. “I know that Head Start works and my story is just one of many, and that’s why days like today are important, not just for the many families and children that we already serve, but for the many children and families that we haven’t even met yet.”