Elena Henry was pregnant with her first child when she received her high school diploma and felt that not only were all eyes on her, but sensed they were willing her to fail.
Henry had other plans.
Thanks to her determination and services provided by Community Partnership for Child Development Head Start, she's not only an actively involved parent of four young children, she's working toward an accounting degree.
"I felt like everyone was waiting for me to fail," she said. "It led me to perfectionism."
Henry serves as a member of the CPCD Policy Council and as a parent ambassador. She is also the recipient of a National Head Start Association scholarship which allows her to pursue her own post-secondary education.
CPCD serves children and their families in what the organization calls "the two-generation approach" by providing educational and economic assistance with health and well-being services. This is accomplished through three core early childhood education programs: Early Head Start, Head Start and Colorado Preschool Program for children from prenatal to 5 years old and their parents.
Early Head Start is a two-day a week, four-hours a day program; the Head Start Program is a four-day-a-week program. These programs are federally funded while Colorado Preschool is funded by the state and serves 3- to 5-year-olds.
Last year, Henry and her husband enrolled two of their children in Head Start; their oldest daughter has since aged out of the program. Their son and youngest daughter are on a waiting list. She explored what CPCD had to offer after expressing frustration on social media about getting into other preschools.
"I'm so thrilled with the quality of care through CPCD," Henry said. "They cater to families not just the kids." Henry has been able to take classes in parenting, cooking, first aid and CPR certification, among others. "This is helping me be the best parent I can be."
She added, "I have never been made to feel as someone of lesser means. You're never made to feel like you have to explain yourself here. It's not the case."
Six school districts in Colorado Springs provide classrooms for Head Start programs, explained Tiyana Hardney Vela, outreach manager. These include Districts 2, 3, 8, 11, 20 and 49. Class size for Head Start is 16-17 with three teachers; Early Head Start has a maximum of eight students with three teachers.
CPCD's statistics indicate that 94 percent of children who complete the program are kindergarten-ready and 96 percent of the parents volunteer in some capacity or another. Henry said it's important for her to volunteer because she sees "so many great things happening."
Hardney Vela added, "Elena volunteers to be a part of so many things at CPCD. She is so engaged in her children's education."
"Children learn how to discuss feelings and emotions. Yes, they learn their letter shapes and sounds, but that's not as important as learning how to share and how to interact with one another," Henry said. "They are developing the child all the way around."
Claire Sanderson, development officer, said the organization works with families to help them set and meet goals. "Whether it's getting out of homelessness or its education, we meet families where they are to plan goals and the steps needed to get there. This is how the two-generation approach works."