“My favorite part of the program is watching families engaged in their child’s education. A lot of our families come from limited education and limited resources. Just the fact that they know the importance of education and that they know they are their child’s first teacher is wonderful to me. And we are helping them to be the best first teacher they can be.”
My name is Aissa Zapata. I was born and raised in Texas and just moved out to California about a year ago. When I first came across YPI, I did my research and started to see what the agency was all about, the community that it serves and the services that it provides. I really liked its holistic approach to serving the community. That is the reason that I chose YPI and applied for the job here. I am now the Early Head Start Director.
I have been a lifelong advocate of children and families and have seen the results and outcomes that these programs provide. I consider myself very lucky to have been a part of those success stories. Those stories are the ones that keep me going and keep me motivated. They are the reason I do what I do.
Early Head Start is a program that serves infants and toddlers– ages 6 weeks to 36 months. We are a comprehensive program, so we are all about the social, emotional, health and nutrition of that particular child. We’re making sure that they are always up to date on immunizations, that they’ve received their Well Child exams, and–even more importantly–that their parents understand why those things are important.
We are equally focused on helping parents– whether it is transitioning them to either going to school or working. We make sure that parents feel safe to leave their children with us, so that they can go out and take care of their family. They know that that their babies are Ok. They know that they’re safe. They know that they are learning. They know that they are with qualified staff. At the same time, a lot of our participants are first time parents, so we make sure that they are equipped with parenting skills and that they have the resources available as their children grow.
At EHS the teachers and parents work hand in hand. Whatever is happening at home that works for the child, our teachers want to know what that is. They want to be able to implement those same things in the classroom. And vice versa. There’s a really strong partnership between parent and teacher for the benefit of the child.
It is all about the child and making sure that they are on the road to develop at a normal pace. If they are lacking in any areas, we identify what those areas are and individualize curriculum, so that the needs of that particular child are met. The group is not taught as a whole. Children are taught individually based on where they are are, what their strengths are and what their areas of need are.
From my experience, when children transition from the Early Head Start to Head Start to Kindergarten, the teachers want all of the kids who have been in our programs because they are leaps and bounds ahead of their peers. They know how to socialize. They have learned how to share. They know how to write their name. They knew their colors and their numbers. They know how to stand in line and get from one point to another as they transition through activities.
We are talking about children from low income families who more than likely would not have the same resources and opportunities that other children do. Early Head Start and Head Start provide those opportunities, so that our children can experience the best supplies, materials, curriculum and the teachers. All of those things combined make for a great head start for children.
This is a really exciting time for EHS. We just opened a new center on Vine Street. A lot of the materials that were used in the design are eco-friendly. We have skylights, so there’s a lot of natural light. We have 9 classrooms and 2 playgrounds– one is for infants and the other is for toddlers.
My favorite part of the program is watching families engaged in their child’s education. A lot of our families come from limited education and limited resources. Just the fact that they know the importance of education and that they know they are their child’s first teacher is wonderful to me. And we are helping them to be the best first teacher they can be. We provide them with the resources and confidence to do so.
To me, a better world is one where children and families from all backgrounds and all races have the same opportunities to be successful, the same opportunities to go to school, to learn, to be productive citizens of the world. Early Head Start and Head Start are great ways for families to start that journey.