A HEALTHY START – From Healthy Families to Head Start, ready for Kindergarten and beyond
Meet Jenna, Jose & Jayden
|Jayden as a Healthy Families participant|
The Healthy Families program was overall amazing. Before our son was born we were given weekly information on his development and worked on getting ready for his arrival. Once he was born we set goals individually and as a family and worked towards achieving them. We received information on how he should be developing according to his age and activities we could do with him to enhance his development. We were also able to go to the support groups they run and meet other families and share ideas with each other. With the help of the program I was connected to many resources I did not know about.
A HUMBLE HERO – He found his wings at WCAC
Meet Christian Olivo
When the stress of growing up in a single parent household become too much, Christian Olivo found himself depressed, a high school dropout and uncertain about his future. A friend referred him to WCAC’s high school certificate program, WINGS. “It was amazing – a lot more than I expected,” he says. “The staff made everything easy and was committed to helping me make a better life for myself.”
PAYING IT FORWARD – Once a client, now serving those in need
Meet Winnie Octave
“Everybody needs somebody, WCAC was my somebody,” says Winnie Octave.
A single mom of three transplanted to Worcester after a divorce, Winnie’s first interaction with WCAC came through computer classes designed to improve skills and enhance employment opportunties… that led to other programs and services – and eventually a 13 year stint as a member of WCAC’s Board of Directors. “Everything fell into place,” she says. “WCAC was the backbone to all of the other opportunities which came my way.” Now a homeowner and proud mom of two grown sons and a daughter, she’s recently returned to WCAC where she is working with clients facing utility shutoffs.
A HAND UP, NOT A HAND OUT – LIHEAP there when single mom needed it most
Carol L. – Douglas, MA
Customer Success – Mark Gustafson
“Giving back is one way I can say thank you for everything I’ve gotten,” remarks 26-year-old Mark Gustafson, a homeowner in Spencer and Master Electrician at Wyman Gordon. Married to his high school sweetheart, Nichole, and the father of 5 children, previously Mark chaired Worcester Community Action Council’s Head Start Policy Council in Southbridge and served on the Board for Worcester Community Action Council. “Unfortunately, if you are not part of Head Start, you don’t know the difference it can make.” Nichole and Mark’s children attend or have attended WCAC’s Head Start program. The two oldest children, now in public school, are reading at higher grade levels and master schoolwork beyond their grade. Mark and Nichole believe that attending Head Start/Early Head Start—a pre-school program–prepared their children for public school—academically and socially. Mark volunteered as a member of the Head Start Policy Council when they needed a co-chair, and after running three or four meetings, the Council appointed him Chair. He has volunteered to serve on the Audit/Finance and Energy Committees of the Board. Mark is familiar with other WCAC programs; several years ago, he needed help to heat his home and applied for and received fuel assistance that kept his family warm during the winter. Mark and his family are grateful to WCAC for its programs and give back in ways that make a difference. “I want to say thank you!”
Customer Success – Tanya Boucher
Tanya Boucher and her family were suddenly homeless on April 1, 2011. Living in rural Maine can be difficult, but James Emmons worked as a truck driver, he and Tanya rented a house with an option to buy, and the two children—son Jayden and daughter Jianna—were well. Then James lost his job. The family moved in with friends in Worcester. “By the grace of God,” Tanya recalls, the Grace House in Southbridge, run by volunteers as part of the privately funded Interfaith Network, had an opening for one more family. It was during this time that Evelyn Velez, Worcester Community Action Councils Head Start Director of Family Services, volunteered at the shelter, met the family, and made phone calls to enroll Jayden—then 4 ½—in the Pre-K programs that help children make an easy transition to Kindergarten. “It was rough for me, but Evelyn assured me that my son would be fine. On the first day of school, Jayden told me I could go home now and not to worry—that he would meet friends,” Tanya said. When the shelter closed during the summer for lack of funding, Tanya, James, and the children lived in a motel. With help from two local housing organizations, the family moved to an apartment in Southbridge. James found a job in August, and Tanya works two part-time jobs. “We can now catch up on our bills and improve our credit.” Jayden made a smooth transition to Kindergarten, and Jianna, now 3 ½, is enrolled in WCAC’s Early Head Start program in Southbridge. Tanya said, “I’m relieved about having my children in school and doing well. Head Start and the teachers were somehow sent to us. We have a place to live. Somebody’s looking out for us. I don’t know what we would have done without everyone’s help.”
Customer Success – Calvin Bradshaw
Calvin Bradshaw, 26 years old, enrolled in WCAC’s summer jobs weatherization program in 2009. Little did he know he was about to change his life.
As part of a group of 11 young men and women, Calvin participated in a pilot program under the direction of WCAC’s energy team to learn green job skills and perform weatherization activities. The young adults received two weeks of pre-employment training, with a heavy emphasis on weatherization audits. A local contractor volunteered his time to offer hands-on demonstrations on caulking windows and blown-in insulation. While the rest of the group worked under the direction of the Main South CDC, Calvin shadowed the WCAC energy auditors and accompanied them on many quality control site inspections to learn how to do a thorough energy audit. He and the other young people also attended the moderate deleading training and received their certificates. At the end of the summer jobs program, Calvin enrolled in WCAC’s GED classes, where he studied for two months and achieved his certificate. WCAC then hired him part-time to work with the energy team. In 2010, Calvin enrolled in Quinsigamond Community College (QCC), and through the WCAC’s Senator Edward M. Kennedy Scholarship program, he was awarded a laptop computer for his school work. “I wanted to better myself. I wanted a career path in the criminal justice field, and I’m leaning toward being a police officer.” So far, Calvin has taken 8 courses at QCC, recently took and scored an 89 (70 is a passing grade) on the police officer civil service exam, and will be on the list for 2 years.
“WCAC is the best place I’ve ever worked. I learned a lot, and I grew a lot. People believe in me…that I can do something good and positive. The best thing is to help other people, and I like to help my co-workers. Making other people happy makes me happy, too.”