This month, I am interning at the Ironbound Community Corporation’s Head Start program in Newark, NJ. Head Start’s goal is to prepare low-income children for elementary school by providing less-fortunate parents with services like ESL and parenting classes, pregnant-mother info sessions, social community-building events, counseling, and good old child care. A large majority of the families that come through Ironbound’s organization are Spanish, Portuguese, Latino or African immigrants and are living under the poverty line. Studies have shown that low-income parents tend to be less educated on parenting strategies that encourage child-parent affection, child exploration and autonomy. Unlike middle and upper-class parents, who are often more informed on how to make the most of their child’s critical development period (ages 1-4), impoverished parents are typically less aware of just how far involved efforts like singing, reading and play time can go. Head Start equips these parents with the tools to help the child develop to their full potential by the time Kindergarten rolls around. Before Head Start, studies displayed kindergarteners of upper and middle class families performing at a significantly higher level than children of low-income families. However with Head Start’s helpful knowledge and services, low-income students’ performance improved with flying colors.
Here, I will share my goals for this month!
1. It is important to note here that I love this organization’s mission and I highly respect the detailed attention that is paid to each and every family. I can absolutely see myself working for an organization like this. I was lucky enough to find an organization that encouraged my immersion in a number of Head Start’s areas (pregnant mother info sessions, day care, ESL classes, admin meetings, etc.) so in feeling my way around each of these areas, my first goal is to figure out which environment I like best. Do I want to be the one talking to the parents, making the home stays, working with children…? What fits my personality best?
2. The staff I work amongst is very close and comfortable with one another. It is a casual environment: jokes are constantly being made and the radio plays quietly in the background. Office space is limited, so the one spot they have for me to sit is outside of their circle of office chairs. Naturally, I have trouble knowing when to engage in conversation, being ‘on the outisde’ and knowing that they’re busy writing emails and making phone calls simultaneously. I’m sure they did plan for me to feel this way, but I’ve just been struggling with how and when to chime into the conversation. I’m sure once I inch my way in and the more they continue to invite me in upon occasion, the more comfortable I will become. My goal by the end of the month is to develop good repport with the staff.
3. Once I think I have found the environment I like working in most, my last job is to step back and evaluate my performance in that field. What am I good at? Am I copying the styles of my co-workers word for word or am I finding my own voice? What am I still uncomfortable with? How can I improve? This is definitely something that needs to be explored with future experiences, however I can absolutely start to take note of what comes naturally and where there’s room for improvement.