Firelands Mom Empowered by Head Start

posted 5/24/24 -- When Destiny Samples brought her son Elijah to Firelands Head Start, she was surprised at his reaction.

Elijah had only been cared for by family members up to last fall and entering a class of 20 was overwhelming for him. Thanks to the guidance of Firelands staff, Destiny and Elijah have both grown.

“When my son came to this class he had a very hard time,” Destiny said. “We’ve made a lot of progress.”

Elijah was anxious which came out in behavioral issues. Staff helped Destiny create a plan to reach him and gave her tools to use at home.

“(Site Administrator) Pam (Caruso) takes an abundant amount of time with me,” Destiny said, specifically citing the program’s use of Conscious Discipline.

Conscious Discipline is an evidence-based, trauma-informed approach to social-emotional learning. It provides an array of behavior management strategies and classroom structures that teachers can use to turn everyday situations into learning opportunities.

The program helps teachers and parents understand the “brain state” of a child’s behavior and helps them model appropriate skills. One key is building connections in a compassionate environment.

Learn more about Conscious Discipline

“I had none of those tools prior to my child being in this program,” Destiny said. “I’ve never felt more comfortable with people being around my child.”

Staff was impressed with Destiny’s commitment to improve things for her son and family.

“We just decided to take it in little steps,” Caruso said. “It was a lot of modeling.”

One example, common among young children who have not been around other children, is learning how to enter play. When a group of children would play with a toy Elijah was interested in, he didn’t know how to appropriately join them and acted out instead.

“When children don’t know how to enter play, they do it in destructive ways,” Caruso said. “Learning that skill changed Elijah’s day. Prior to solving that, he was very isolated.”

Elijah is moving on to kindergarten at Firelands Elementary School but his younger brother Gabriel will enter the Head Start classroom this fall.

“I wish I knew about Head Start sooner,” added Destiny, a 2013 graduate of Firelands High School. “They not only changed his life, they changed mine. I became a better parent.”

Destiny counts Conscious Discipline as one of her strengths as a parent, an outcome which makes Caruso’s heart full, she said.

“I was impressed with how willing she was to learn from us,” Caruso added. “She came in and was vulnerable enough to ask for help.”

Head Start is now enrolling for fall classes. Learn more and start your child’s application today.

Elijah is pictured with Firelands Early Childhood Services Worker Rebecca Volk.