Beyond the Kids: Head Start’s Lasting Impact

Tracy (left) and other SCAN advocates at the 2017 Advocacy Summit.


Children who participate in Head Start programs receive innumerable benefits. The advantages that Head Start recipients gain appear within that first year of attendance in the program and have a lifelong impact that lasts for generations to come. I can attest to all of these advantages because Head Start has played a significant role in my own household.
The first volunteer role I have ever had was in a Head Start classroom. It was there that I realized that real learning did not begin in a K-5 setting, but began even prior to a child entering a kindergarten classroom. I always knew I wanted to teach, but until my experience with Head Start, I always pictured myself in an elementary school classroom. Now, I am an early childhood educator.

My son was also a Head Start graduate. As a young, low-income, first time, single mom, I really attribute Head Start for a lot of his success. When it came to teaching him, interacting with him or knowing about proper health and nutrition, I knew very little, but Head Start was there as my resource and hands-on guide to help me through it all. The help they gave my child and me was invaluable.

That’s why I traveled to Washington D.C. (for the first time!) in 2017 as a Save the Children Action Network volunteer to visit Capitol Hill and ask my senators and representative to protect funding for Head Start. I know firsthand how important that funding is because I know so many children and families who benefit from it. When our children receive high-quality early care and education in programs like Head Start, the return on investment is large—both financially for the government, and personally for the child and their family.

After returning from D.C., I am currently running for State Representative of Iowa House District 70. Although I was never a Head Start graduate myself, I attribute part of my career path to my exposure to Head Start programs. These programs taught me the importance of high-quality early care and education. They also taught me how to better care for my own child, how to be better connected to my community and what a quality early childhood program really looks like. That’s why a large part of my campaign platform revolves around investing in early care and education. After all, when we invest in kids, we invest in the future.

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Tracy Ehlert is an early childhood educator in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Tracy has a formal education background in Early Childhood Education, recently having completed a master’s degree with a focus on Teaching & Diversity. Tracy owns B2K Learning Center, which serves preschool and school-age children. She also sits on state and national boards and committees that revolve around early education and is currently running for State Representative of Iowa House District 70.