Lori Pittman is being honored as a Champion of Change for her commitment to delivering on the promise of Head Start in her community, helping to educate and care for our youngest, most vulnerable children.
I am truly honored to be considered a Head Start leader and Champion of Change. In 1993, I was living in poverty with my husband and several young children. Luckily, my family had the opportunity to enroll in Head Start. The program literally changed my life. It gave me the skills, support, and confidence I needed to succeed. My Head Start program, Policy Council, and Head Start State Association experiences offered me a new perspective of myself as a leader, advocate and someone who is committed to creating opportunities for low-income parents to understand their voice and to gain skills that move them towards self-sufficiency. Because of my powerful Head Start experience I have dedicated my life to helping low-income parents get out of poverty and live up to their fullest potential.
After being served by Head Start, I decided it was my turn to serve. I started out by working at Puget Sound Educational Service District’s (PSESD) Head Start program as an employment and training associate, where I was instrumental in organizing employment and training programs for Head Start parents, including the Parent Internship Program. I also pioneered a pilot project for transitional jobs called Community Jobs.
After 6 years I left PSESD Head Start and accepted a position as a statewide Program Manager for the Community Jobs program at the Washington State Department of Commerce. During my 5 year tenure with Commerce, Community Jobs was honored as Washington’s most successful Work First Program. I initiated leadership and liaison roles with Washington State policy makers, community partners, and the Governor’s sub-cabinet, and became a key expert and trainer on strength-based services for low-income families. I continually focused on delivering the message that low-income families are capable and only need opportunity and support to move forward to self-sufficiency.
Due to my expertise I also have been asked to consult for non-profit organizations in strategies to effectively engage low-income parents, including an opportunity to work with a team that developed programs to serve women in Afghanistan. I partnered with Advocates for Afghanistan, Refugee Women in Development, and Teachers Without Borders to develop training programs for marginalized women and girls.
Currently, I am employed by PSESD Head Start, where it all started. In my current role I wear multiple hats, all of them with one key goal in mind: to empower low-income people to have a voice and be fully engaged in changing their lives for the better. In 2008, I also became the Project Manager for the Washington State Association of Head Start and Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program’s award-winning Parent Ambassadors Program. The parents selected for this program participate in a year-long intensive peer advocacy and leadership program. They receive training on communications, leadership, legislative advocacy and grassroots organizing, and are responsible for training parents in their local programs and participating in advocacy efforts on both the state and federal level. The success and personal growth these parents reach is nothing short of amazing.
I believed then and still do today that opportunity and access is the solution for the families and children we serve. I will forever be committed to empowerment and leadership of parents, advocating for policy that supports opportunities for all and that ensures all people have a voice and choice in their future. Every day I am honored to do this transformational work and continue to be humbled by how parents and families become leaders in their communities and advocates for their children.
I am humbled and grateful to be honored as a Head Start Champion of Change. I thank President Obama, the White House Office of Public Engagement, and the Domestic Policy Council for honoring the significance of Head Start and the lifelong success Head Start offers families and children.
Lori Pittman is a Head Start Family Support Coordinator at PSESD