For the last 16 years, Tamara Burke has committed herself to the NHA Head Start family, helping grow dozens of children, including her own. In 1995, her oldest son, Bryant, entered a Head Start program where they were living in Sacramento. When they moved to San Diego in 1996, Bryant was enrolled in the Encanto Head Start, and Tamara became a parent volunteer shortly after.
Tamara was volunteering at her son’s Head Start every day when the site leadership suggested that she apply to officially become a teacher. There was only one problem: Tamara hadn’t finished high school.
“If it wasn’t for Head Start and volunteering, I don’t know if I would have went back to school,” she said.
Tamara has come a long way from being a single mother without a high school diploma. Tamara earned her Associate’s degree from San Diego City College in 2003, and she is back in school earning a B.A. in Human Services. Since becoming a NHA Head Start employee in 1999, Tamara has been an Assistant Teacher, Teacher, Teacher/Family Support Specialist, and Acting Program Assistant. She recently took classes to earn additional certifications and hopes to one day become a Site Supervisor.
Tamara believes that her experiences allow her relate to some of the families she helps.
“Head Start empowering me to get a job, an education, and to become a better parent, has helped me to empower the families that I work with. I was a single parent, I was on aid, and it’s possible,” she said.
Tamara’s greatest experience comes from being a Head Start parent. All four of her children went through NHA’s Head Start program.
Bryant, 22, is currently attending PIMA Medical Institute. Tamara says Head Start helped develop his social skills and their family benefitted from early intervention and the one-on-one attention he needed when they discovered his issues with anger. Jeffery, 19, has always excelled at reading and writing. Isaiah, 9, is very musically inclined and has a great interest in the arts, and Mona, 7, is constantly earning awards in school.
Tamara looks forward to many more years with Head Start and more opportunities to work closely with families. Her life, and the success of her children, is evidence that Head Start works.
“Head Start set the foundation for their early learning, so I thank God for Head Start,” she said.