November 27, 2017

Honduran School Director Learns Valuable Lessons at UAMS Head Start

Eda Graciela Aguilera Aguscia knows how important a solid education is to success in life. That’s why she’s doing all she can to increase the number of children in Honduras with access to an education.

Aguilera, who operates a school and daycare with her sister, Marcia, in San Pedro Sula, Cortes, spent a few weeks at UAMS Head Start schools in Pulaski County to learn the approaches used in the United States for early childhood development and education. She came to UAMS as a Fellow of the Young Leaders of the Americas Initiative (YLAI) Professional Fellows program. She was hosted by Charles Feild, M.D., retired executive director of the UAMS Head Start program.

Eda Graciela Aguilera Aguscia with UAMS Head Start staff

Eda Graciela Aguilera Aguscia (far right), a Honduras native, spent a few weeks at UAMS Head Start locations in Pulaski County to learn strategies and methods in the United States.

The program, sponsored by the U.S. State Department, allows entrepreneurs and leaders from Latin America and the Caribbean to travel to the U.S. to network and learn from their counterparts in America and provide them with the tools and training necessary to make a difference in their communities and countries.

This is the first year UAMS has taken part in the program, said Tyra Larkin, director of UAMS Head Start.

“We were interested because she was from another country and we could make a difference in early childhood in a country that may not have as many resources or strategies related to the growth and development of young children,” said Larkin.

Aguilera’s two weeks in Arkansas allowed her to sit in on board and leadership meetings, ask questions, exchange ideas, visit various UAMS Head Start locations, meet with teachers and work with students. Aguilera met with Head Start area content managers for education and school readiness, disability, health, family engagement and nutrition.

“We tried to show her we’re not just focused on education, we’re focused on the whole child,” said Larkin. “Head Start is a comprehensive model and children have to receive support from many areas to be successful.”

Eda Aguilera Aguscia UAMS

Aguilera owns and operates a bilingual school in Honduras, Cumorah Daycare and Bilingual School.

Aguilera’s passion for education and child development was inspired by her mother. In Honduras, a bilingual education in Spanish and English is key to success and opportunity. Her mother made sure Aguilera and her sister went to schools that taught in English and Spanish.

“My mother loves education,” said Aguilera. “She knew how important it was for us.”

Aguilera said many low-income, working families like the one she grew up in, do not enjoy the same opportunity for a bilingual education because of its cost. Her school, Cumorah Daycare and Bilingual School, aims to change that by offering affordable, bilingual instruction to those families.

“Every day on my way to work I see kids on the street asking for money,” said Aguilera. “I’m not better than them. They could be engineers or teachers or anything, but they don’t have the opportunity because they’ve been condemned to poverty. My sister and I decided to start this school to give kids the opportunity to overcome those challenges and give them a chance to achieve happiness.”

Since 2015, Cumorah has provided instruction and care for children from 18 months to 6 years old. The school currently has 17 children in three different levels of preschool and first grade.

Aguilera said her time at UAMS Head Start was transformational.

“Because we lack government funding and are still a very small program, we only focus on education, but it was impactful to see the comprehensive approach at UAMS Head Start,” said Aguilera. “Now, I have the knowledge of how important it is to support these children in more ways than education.”

By | November 27th, 2017|