In January of 1967, at the age of 20, I left my home in Blaine, Washington, a town of around 1,200, to take part in what would be one of the most influential years of my life, Volunteers In Service To America, (VISTA). After training in Atlanta, Georgia and a week of in-service in Dorchester, Georgia, I, along with two others, Sandra Hagadorn and Claudia Hudson, was assigned to a project in Morganton, North Carolina.
My project grew out of the need for services in a small somewhat isolated and very poor part of Morganton known as Bouchelle. African American families lived in this specific part of city and were largely isolated there except for work in the larger community. Children were having a difficult time when reaching the recently integrated public school system so the first activity in our project was to establish a preschool to help children and their families with this new educational opportunity. The program went on to become a Head Start Center. In addition to the preschool, and because the community was to under go urban renewal, we helped families prepare to fully receive the benefits of this new housing opportunity. Also, because seniors were isolated from one another and the larger community we started a senior activity group.
Following my year in VISTA and after service in the U.S. Army, I returned to college to follow the passion inspired by my year in VISTA and study Early Childhood Education. I worked in the early childhood field for over 30 years first at Western Washington University expanding the Child Development Center into a quality, nationally recognized and accredited program. I then went on to be co-located between the Washington State Department of Community, Trade and Economic Development where I supported employers developing family friendly benefits and oversaw the Washington State Child Care Facility Loan program, and the Department of Social and Health Services where I worked in the Office of Child Care Policy and managed the Federal Child Care and Development Grant to the State of Washington. My final employer was Puget Sound Educational Service District where I directed Highline Head Start.
Upon retirement, I have continued to work on projects to support young children and their families. These include helping with the Greenbridge Educare project (part of the White Center Early Learning Initiative), remodeling of Pike Place Market Child Care and Preschool, supporting Early Childhood Opportunities North West in Bellingham, and working on a project with the Seneca Nation of Indians in New York, to name a few.
I believe the value in VISTA is both the work that is accomplished in the projects and the hope inspired by giving to others.