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Now a Fresno EOC employee and college graduate, Glenda Ruiz fondly remembers Head Start as the place where she got her first taste of education.

“Head Start planted the seed of education in me,” Ruiz said “From early on I wanted to learn more and do more for my education. After I went to Fresno Pacific and got a job at Fresno EOC, I didn’t know I was coming back to an agency that planted that seed.”

It was at Head Start where Ruiz learned how to follow a daily routine, such as brushing her teeth, participating in classroom activities and meal time. As a child growing up in a Spanish speaking home, she remembers learning English in a welcoming environment, with the help of bilingual Head Start staff.

“Every time we passed by La Colonia Head Start, I would tell my daughter look that’s where I went,” Ruiz said. “They did everything to help us get ready for kindergarten and I wanted my daughter to have the same experience.”

Ruiz still has her graduation jacket she wore as a 4-year old, remembering her teachers and the excitement she felt as she completed a milestone in her education. “When I put on my jacket, that was the first time I got the feeling of graduation,” Ruiz said.

While a single parent and college student, Head Start was able to give Ruiz and her daughter the care they needed during a hectic time in their life. It was at Head Start where a teacher noticed her daughter had difficulty pronouncing words with an ‘S’ sound.

“If it wasn’t for them pointing it out I wouldn’t have known,” Ruiz said. “They were the first educators to notice.” With the help of Head Start, she was able to get her daughter the extra help she needed early on.

Now after two generations with Head Start, Ruiz is proud to promote Head Start and other EOC programs to Fresno County residents. For her, La Colonia Head Start is a landmark in the city of Parlier and serves as a reminder of where she began her education as a child.

“La Colonia Head Start is a part of our history in Parlier, Ruiz said. “When I went there it was just fields but I can say little by little the town began to grow and La Colonia stayed.

As a Head Start parent and child herself in the program, Ruiz feels her experience prepared her for her current position with Fresno EOC Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). She feels equipped to not just educate the public on how to offset home energy costs, but prepared to explain how programs like Head Start can give children their first introduction to education.

“The agency itself is a place you can begin as a student or a recipient of services but then you can become the person that gives and represents Fresno EOC, Ruiz said. “I can give back to our clients not just by telling them about my program but our agency as a whole.”

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