Head Start Success Stories

Welcome to HCAP Head Start Success Stories page. Please scroll down to read some of our inspiring stories about our program. Or select the stories from the links below.

Chronicles of Uncle Phil
Chronicles of Aunty Raynell
Chronicles of Aunty Gloria
Chronicles of Aunty Donna B.

Chronicles of Uncle Phil

photo of Philrobinson Salesby Philrobinson Sales

In the year 2000, I was a single parent working full time as a bus driver for Dollar Rent-A-Car. I worked the night shift from 4:00pm to 12:00am, and at times until 3:00am or 4:00am. I cared to my daughter Jeanelle in the morning and early afternoon, while my parents helped care for Jeanelle in the evenings. I loved my job, but I hated the hours and schedule because I rarely got holidays off.

In the summer of 2001, I heard about a program called “Head Start” through some friends. I got on the phone and talked to Mercy, our family advocate, and I applied for preschool with the Honolulu Community Action Program HCAP Head Start. In the fall, our application had been accepted and approved! I was finally going to get some help with Jeanelle’s development. Little did I know that I was going to get help with my own development!

A few days later, we had a home visit by Jeanelle’s preschool teachers, Ms. Polly and Mr. Charyls. Ms. Polly met with us at home, went over the program with us, and made us feel comfortable about getting ready for school. It was nice to have met Jeanelle’s teachers and to have the opportunity to get to know them before school had actually started.

After the first day of school Ms. Polly asked if I would like to volunteer in class, and I agreed. I became a parent volunteer on a regular basis, sometimes three times a week! I helped with getting materials ready for the children, cleaning up, and lunch. I also became parent committee secretary, and learned how to administer the Early Childhood Environment Rating Scale. My favorites were field trips, because we got to ride on the school bus. Jeanelle and I just loved riding on the school bus! Even though I worked late the previous night, I was excited to spend time with Jeanelle in preschool the next morning.

During one of our parent committee meetings, I read an announcement for two position openings for HCAP, one for a secretary, and one for an assistant teacher. After I informed the parents of the position openings, a parent, Ms. Polly and Ms. Carol suggested that I myself should apply for the assistant teacher position. I was flattered; however, I informed them that I know nothing about holding the responsibilities of an assistant teacher. Ms. Polly informed me that what I have been doing in class for the past two years are the responsibilities of an assistant teacher. I realized that I did have some experience, enough to apply for the position. So, I applied! About four months later, I got a call from HCAP offering me the position, and I accepted! I finally got a job with weekends and holidays off, and a job that paralleled my daughter’s school schedule!

It was at Head Start where I learned about child development. I learned guidance techniques, goal setting, how set up a “developmentally appropriate” routine and schedule for my daughter at home. Head Start made me realize that it took a “family” to raise a child, and that “family” included parents, grandparents, uncles, aunts, our family doctor, our family dentist, and of course, our teachers!

One day, I went snack shopping for our class, and on my shopping list was “lettuce”. I went to Times supermarket and got the items. So I thought I did. While putting the food away, aunty Suzie, aunty Jaci, and aunty Allison noticed two heads of green leaves and asked me what they were. I told them that I got lettuce. They said that I didn’t get lettuce, and that I got cabbage! Cole slaw for snack! I learned how to shop for groceries, and how to tell the difference between lettuce and cabbage! So now everyone knows about my “cabbage” story!

But I think the most important lesson I learned was to love the children for who they are. That’s the bottom line, to help the children. Head Start sent me back to college and gave me the opportunity to learn about early childhood development, appropriate practices, and theories about how children develop. I am so grateful for this training because it has helped me tremendously in raising my daughter. I am now the bus driver for Head Start and I love taking the children on their field trips.

With all that’s happened in my “Head Start journey” I can attest to the validity that parent involvement, and in my case, “fatherhood and male involvement”, truly enhances our children’s development. I am very proud of my daughter. In the summer of 2006, not only did Jeanelle complete the 2nd grade with flying colors, she also graduated from her 5th grade reading comprehension class. She was the only 8-year old in that class.

Thank you Head Start for giving me a job, for giving me my daughter, and for giving me the opportunity and tools to be the best father that I can be. Life is about making good decisions and good choices. I think I made a pretty good decision in deciding to be part of the “Head Start Ohana.”

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Chronicles of Aunty Raynell

by Raynell Namu

Aloha, my name is Raynell Namu. I am the daughter of Mr. Mrs. Edmund Kahue Sr. Although we were poor, my parents raised eleven children in a household filled with love, warmth and security.

In 1981, I graduated from Roosevelt High School. After graduating, I continued my education and attended Kapiolani Community College majoring in Clerical. To support my way through college, I worked at a fast food restaurant where shortly after was promoted to the management team.

In December of 1986, I got married and had three children. After having my third child, I decided to stay home and take care of my family.

On January 13, 1991, my life changed. I left my marriage and went to a domestic violence shelter for women and children. The shelter helped me through this time of need. I met Eli Scanlan, a worker who also worked for Head Start. Eli encouraged me to apply for Head Start so my children could go to preschool.

In August of 1991, my oldest son Matthew was accepted at Kunia Head Start. One of the services I appreciated was having bus transportation. I didn’t have a car so the bus service was perfect. Through wonderful encouraging staff, I got involved by volunteering in the classroom and on the parent group committee as Chairperson. I learned how important parents were in the program. Later in the year, my son Mason was also enrolled in Kunia Head Start. I enjoyed my involvement in the program and learned new things such as working with the children and sharing ideas with the teaching staff.

The following year, (1992-1993) my son Mason was transferred to Waipahu Elementary Head Start where I continued my active involvement with the program.

In 1994, my daughter Megan was accepted at Kunia Head Start.

Once again, Head Start provided bus transportation for the children who resided in the Waipahu area. I continued volunteering in the classroom and assisted the teaching staff on the bus.

I enjoyed volunteering so much that I became the finger printed parent for both Kunia Iand II classrooms. Ms. Pam Fusco was another teacher who inspired me with her creative and outgoing personality.

My daughter moved on to Kindergarten at Waipahu Elementary where I worked as an Adult Supervisor in the cafeteria. After being encouraged several times, I finally took Ms. Marilyn’s advice and submitted a job application with Head Start.

The following school year, I was hired as an Assistant Teacher at Kalihi Elementary. Unfortunately, I called Mr. Rolland Gella to turn the job down. Mr. Gella reassigned me to Waipahu Elementary. I was anxious to work with Ms. Karen Makishima, a teacher who inspired me with her amazing teaching skills. I thanked Mr. Gella for giving me an opportunity in the Head Start Program. I started my new job and enrolled back into school.

In 1997, I achieved my CDA and was promoted to Teacher. I worked in an inclusion setting where I developed partnership with the DOE staff. I learned how to work with disabled children through ongoing trainings and workshops.Working as a teacher gave me the experience to train and work with wonderful Assistant Teachers. Over the years, I continued my education and achieved my Associate’s degree in 2005. I continued working at Waipahu Elementary. Currently, I am a Teacher Mentor supporting teachers on the Leeward Coast under Program Manager, Cheryl Castro. Recently, I applied to Wayland Baptist University so I can pursue a Bachelor’s Degree in Human Resources Specializing in Early Childhood Education.

Over the years, I’ve worked with inspiring teachers, supporting parents, encouraging staff, and even developed a passion for the children and families we service. HCAP Head Start has given me the opportunity to grow, pursue my education, build relationships with community partners and heighten my experiences through meetings, trainings and workshops. Thank you Oahu Head Start for making a difference in my life.

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Chronicles of Aunty Gloria

by Anne Mitson

Gloria Yoshikawa is the Home Base Maile teacher. Gloria’s home is on the North Shore of Oahu where she lives with her husband Mike and two sons Brian and Jason. Gloria has been a Head start teacher since January 1997.

Gloria has developed her Home Base curriculum into a rich tapestry of activities that are developmentally appropriate and are based on the Creative Curriculum, Head Start Performance Standards and the Head Start Outcomes Framework. As well as working with the families once a week Gloria leaves activities for the families to complete with the child during the week. The children and families in Home Base Maile develop a strong connection with their child’s education because of their involvement in the program.

One family Gloria was working with in the 06/07 school year has a child that needed a liver transplant. Gloria coordinated services through the Head Start nurse, Special Educator and Family Advocate. One of the team members reported that they were able to work so well together because of the communication between Gloria and other team members was so great. Everybody was kept informed continually.

On In school year 07/08 although Gloria was assigned to a different area, she requested to keep servicing the child within her group. The child was getting his transplant and she wanted to continue to provide support to the family. When the child left for the mainland for his transplant, Gloria provided warm clothes for the mother and the child. Gloria also collected things from other staff members and had them delivered to the child on the mainland. When dad joined them for the actual surgery Gloria sent him up with a warm coat as well.

Throughout the child’s hospitalization, Gloria sent activities, books and lesson plans every two weeks. Mom had Gloria’s cell phone so Gloria was able to provide support to mom through the whole ordeal. The operation was a success and the child returned to Hawaii.

The family resumed their Home Base participation. At the end of the school year, the Transition Specialist and the Special Educator helped Gloria get the child enrolled into his local school with home tutoring until Christmas. The hope was he can go back to school in January. Gloria went with mom and supported her through the whole process. With Gloria’s services as a Head Start teacher ending, mom said that she is now confident that she can continue to get the best possible educational experiences for her child.

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Chronicles of Aunty Donna B.

donna-brezowski-lgby Theresa Ioane

This is a story of a mom whose dedication and commitment to making a better life for her children persevered over life, many heartaches, and challenges. My name is Theresa, a Family Advocate with Head Start Program. I first met Donna in 2006 when I was assigned to her son’s Head Start classroom. What I noticed about Donna from our first encounter was that she always had a smile on her face and was always willing to assist the staff with any task.

Donna and her two children faced many challenges in a short period of time. In June 2003, a tragedy hit Donna’s family. Both her dad and younger brother were killed crossing Farrington Hwy in Nanakuli. It was her dad’s birthday and they were on their way to buy a birthday cake to celebrate. A second major tragedy hit the family in 2006, shortly after I met her. Donna and her family were evicted from their home because her landlord was cited by the city. The family had nowhere to go, and with a limited income, the family could only afford to camp out on the beach. It was summer time, so the kids loved it.

But over time, it became difficult staying on the beach. Being homeless on the beach, one did not have control over who came by and at different times of the day and night. People would come by to drink at the beach, to fight and to use drugs. Then the police would come by to check to make sure that one had a permit for camping. Every day Donna and her family would pack up their belongings to avoid robbery before leaving in the morning. When rainy season hit, the tent was not much of a shelter and provided very little coverage.

In spite of uncertainties and instabilities in her personal and family life, Donna was consistent about volunteering, assisting the staff and making sure her children were attending school. Seeing her commitment, dedication and positive outlook, Donna was encouraged and supported by staff to become a fingerprinted parent in 2006 and work as a sub hire. Eventually, the teaching staff talked her into applying for Assistant Teacher Trainee position with Head Start Program.

Although she had a driving permit, Donna didn’t have a driver’s license at the time and no one to take her to get a license. Since having a driver’s license was one of the minimum requirements for working for Head Start, I volunteered to take her. This turned out to be the turning point in her life. She passed it on her first try and got her driver’s license. This led to an interview with HCAP and eventually an employment as Head Start Assistant Teacher Trainee.

The family was still living on the beach. The teaching staff and I worked together to help get them off of the beach. Donna applied for a transitional shelter and I followed up with a referral letter. Within a month or so the family was accepted to the shelter and immediately moved off the beach. Although the family had up to 2 years at the shelter to transition, Donna and her family moved out of the shelter within a year into a permanent housing.
The family is doing well.

Donna continues to be committed to improving her family’s livelihood. The boys are attending school and Donna is working diligently to obtain her CDA (Child Development Accreditation) certificate to become an Assistant Teacher. She is an advocate for the program and is dedicated to the families we service. And one day she may just have a class of her own!

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