The Astor Blog

Early Childhood Programs Help Families Blossom

Jeniffer Rivera playing in the sandbox early last summer after attending school.

Jeniffer Rivera playing in the sandbox early last summer after attending school. Photo by Joel Weisbrod.

Jeniffer Rivera is just one child who has had a positive experience with Astor’s Early Childhood Programs. A year and a half ago, Jeniffer was introduced to Astor’s programs through the home-based component of our Early Head Start Program. The home-based program consists of a weekly, 90-minute home visit by a Parent Infant Educator (PIE) who supports the parents and child with information and activities on child development, parenting skills, nutrition, and health.

After a year of home visits, Jeniffer began school at our Wingdale location, where center-based nurturing rooms offer small groups of children ranging in age from six weeks through three years opportunities for individualized development through primary care giving, one-on-one routines, and exploration of interesting, safe materials in a child-focused environment.

“School has made Jeniffer blossom. It’s made her a ‘Chatty Cathy’,” said Jeniffer’s mother, Meaghan Iozzo.

Jeniffer Rivera with mother, Meaghan Iozzo, and father, Nicky Rivera.

Jeniffer Rivera with mother, Meaghan Iozzo, and father, Nicky Rivera. Photo by Joel Weisbrod.

Thanks to Early Head Start, three-year old Jeniffer has become very outgoing. Attending school daily from 8:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., Jeniffer is becoming independent and has her own set of friends.

After becoming a Head Start mom, Iozzo was encouraged by teacher Joan McCue to apply for a Teaching Assistant (TA) position.

“I filled out an application right away and ended up working there ever since,” said Iozzo, who works in one of the universal Pre-K rooms.

At first, when Jeniffer would see her mom in the hallway, she wanted to be with her. As time passed and Jeniffer gained independence, she happily waved “hello” and continued activities with her teacher and new friends.

“Being at Head Start has brought so much out of her. She has become more active in her language… all she does when she comes home is talk about her teacher, Miss Sue, who she misses when she’s not at school,” Iozzo said.

Working at Wingdale’s Head Start has also been beneficial to Iozzo, whose work schedule is the same as her daughter’s school hours.

“Meaghan Iozzo is a lovely young woman committed to her family and all children,” said Grace Caddell, center director of the Wingdale facility.

In a recent article, Head Start: Embracing a Two Generation Approach to Early Learning, which appeared in the Huffington Post on January 26, 2015, Yasmina Vinci writes: “Decades

Jeniffer smiles for a photograph with her dad. Photo by Joel Weisbrod.

Jeniffer smiles for a photograph with her dad. Photo by Joel Weisbrod.

of research prove that children’s outcomes are deeply related to family context, which is why every Head Start and Early Head Start family works with an advocate who helps parents conduct a family needs assessment and create a partnership agreement that lays out goals for both children and parents. Whether they are immediate needs like safe housing and getting food on the table, or long-term aspirations for college degrees and fulfilling careers, these goals empower families to achieve educational success as well as economic security.”

Meaghan and Jeniffer are just one example of a family who has embraced all that Head Start has to offer, and continue to thrive because of it.