If it hasn’t been made evident by now, we love people here at AAT! We love hearing about their stories and passions for our community, but we also love hearing about what our fellow locals do and why they do it! For example, we have some wonderful neighbors who own/manager some fantastic local businesses and serve our town tremendously by doing so! This fact is why AAT has partnered up with our good friends at B3 Glass, to bring you all “Small Business Fridays!” Each week, we’ll feature a different, local small business and talk with its owner and hear about their journey, their business in general, as well as their heart for their customers and our city!
This week, we’re joined by Lori Cox, the CEO of Head Start of North Eastern Nevada. Head Start is a fully accredited and licensed childcare center that aims to equip infants and preschoolers with the needed tools for a successful educational journey. Lori seeks to provide these services to one hundred and forty-five kids, with the help of their fifty amazing teachers and staff.
Thank you for taking the time from caring for many of our town’s little ones to talk with us today, Lori! Working with dozens of preschoolers every day is an ambitious feat that many would not be able to take on! What led you to not only accept your position but do so with joy and enthusiasm?
“I realized pretty early on, in my twenties, that whatever I was going to do as a job, I had to feel good about it; I wanted to go into areas that meant something to me. I started my career in media research. I worked in Nielsen Ratings for almost ten years, and I loved it immensely. After that, I moved over to child research at the University of Utah. I was brought in for the National Children’s Study, which was mandated by Congress. It was supposed to go on for the next twenty-five to twenty-seven years, following kids from pre-birth up through the age of twenty-one and then aggregating all that information. I thought I was going to retire with that job. However, they cut it short, about five years in. So, in the process of looking for a new position, I ended up in higher education and running graduate degree programs.
“At the same time, I got my master’s degree in non-profit leadership but realized I never did that thing after high school or college where kids go off and have a break year. So, I decided I wanted to have one! After my year, this job popped up, and when I saw that coaching families was a big part of the Head Start program, that really lured me in. So, in January of 2018, I decided to trade in graduate students for preschool students. Preschool students listen a lot better than graduate students do and are a lot more fun to work with!”
I gave a brief explanation in the introduction of this feature, but how would you tell someone what Head Start is all about? Please give us all the details!
“Head Start was started back in the 1960s as part of the war on poverty. It was developed as a preschool for parents that are struggling or couldn’t afford the costs of childcare. We also serve the neediest and most vulnerable kids in our area, so it’s not just about the costs; sometimes we serve kids who’ve experienced trauma, have a deployed parent, or have things that might psychologically or physically hinder their development. However, we wanted this to not only be a daycare, but something that will enrich the children once they’ve reached school age. So, we are an actual preschool with a real curriculum that we follow for learning.
“We have a team of highly skilled and passionate people who work here. They really care about Head Start’s mission and goals. Most people who love Head Start love it for life. We don’t normally have a lot of turn over because they love our staff.”
You explained that very well, Lori. However, what kind of misconceptions do people have about Head Start when they don’t have all the information about who you are and what you do?
“One of the misconceptions about Head Start is that we are just a daycare. We actually have a full curriculum from when the kid is zero all the way up through kindergarten. Another misconception people may have is that we’re only here for the kids. We have an incredible family support team that helps families set goals and make some life advances while their kids are here with us. We want this to be a “head start” for everyone in the family.”
How is Head Start with connecting to our community? I’m sure you all bring a lot of value to our area, correct?
“Something I would like to see more from us is connecting more with this community because supporting some of these families that may be struggling right now benefits the community as a whole. These parents might be the ones taking some of the big jobs in Elko next.”
Is there anything that the community needs to be more aware of when it comes to getting involved with and supporting Head Start?
“Yes, we need to expand our Early Head Start Program (0-3). There are only about forty slots in all of Elko for this program, and we have thirty-six of them! We usually have around one hundred and fifteen people on the waiting list. Those parents are really desperate for help because that age range normally comes with a lot of very young parents. So, if we’re ever able to get that demographic to school, to better jobs, then we have to open up slots for early education. This means we need to have a remodel of our old building to get this done. So, we are going to need partnerships to make this happen, from the mines, local businesses, and average/everyday people.”
Wonderful! We’ll share more information on that great cause after this last question. It’s a simple one. Lori, what do you want the people to walk away from this article knowing about Head Start that they may not have known before reading this feature?
“I want people to realize how much we’re helping families get ahead, not just helping people with childcare needs. We’re helping families reach their bootstraps, so they can pull themselves up. The community is welcome anytime to take a tour and see more of what we do and reach out and help however they can!”
If you would like to help Head Start in their effort to expand their early education program, one of the ways you can do so involves something you’re probably already doing- your holiday shopping! If you purchase anything from Amazon in the near future, do so through Smile.Amazon.com and select Head Start of Northeastern Nevada as your charitable organization. Those contributions will be used towards Early Head Start expansion efforts!
You can stay caught up on everything going on around here at AAT by checking out our “Stay Connected” page! Make sure you never miss a feature!
See you around, Elko!
Written by: Anthony Crosby
Edited by: Nadara Merrill