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Parent Involvement Pays Off for Abilene ISD Headstart Family Advocate

By Frances Gonzalez-Boyd



Behind the doors of Family Services at Woodson Headstart, parents are welcomed to come in, chat, stay awhile and have a cup of coffee while sitting in the comfort of a rocking chair feeling right at home with a special lady who in her words “is equipped” for the job. After all, she has a story of her own and how she once was a parent that dedicated her time by volunteering to help her children’s teachers at Woodson. When she took the time to be involved with her children’s school activities, it not only helped secure a positive future for her children it was an atmosphere of caring for families of students that may have certain needs and concerns. After working at Woodson Headstart for twenty years, Family Advocate Mary Brooks, 53, daily visitors are not only parents with current needs, but she get to see familiar faces from the past. “I am now seeing some of those children that are now young grandparents. I am getting the second turn around with some of the families”, she said. Parents will come by just to talk for reassurance at times”, said Brooks. They just need someone to pat them on their back.” What happens in family services stays here. Whatever the meeting might be about, their always seems to be a smile coming from everyone. Brooks is showing her happiness to people, and it is no wonder the proud mother has something to reminisce and brag about. Brooks has four children, Mosi,35, Senekka,33, Ahmad,29, and Abeni,28, and four granddaughters, and another one that is due on December 5th. Her children are proof of the benefits that can result from good parenting skills and parental school involvement. Mosi is a Business Administration major at Abilene Christian University, Shenekka is a Criminal Justice major at Cisco Junior College and Abeni is a Paralegal major at a Junior College in Houston, Texas and Ahmad is a Law Student at University of Texas in Austin. When Brooks took the time to be involved with her children’s school activities, it not only secured a positive future for her children, but it opened a career door for her. She was offered her first position of Classroom/Home Based Motor lab Aide in 1989. Although, it was for only half a day, and it paid seventy-four dollars every two weeks, it was the beginning of her career. She accepted the job and was very grateful to the teachers and administration. “The way they treated me made me want to give to someone else”, said Brooks. “I started out working with young women and children. They are my calling.” Brooks worked her way up the ladder to a full-time Teacher’s aide position and completed Child Development Associates degree from an International CDD College which helped her land her next job as a Home Based Teacher working with twelve students. Her last job was Teacher of three year-old students before accepting the position of Family Advocate. Brooks is a Hardin-Simmons University Senior majoring in Social Work and will graduate May 2010. She is also currently completing an internship with Child Protective Services and is unsure what she will do when she is finished. As family Advocate, Brooks position entails doing community referrals, educational counseling, providing clothing, and making several home visits a years to a case load of eighty families. She shares about her daily duties. Every day needs are different, and I am able to see what these parents need. The needs are always there. The overall purpose of my position is to make sure that the children and their parents are comfortable and their quality of life is enhanced with anything that increases their life. We help them to set goals and go on to complete their objective and goals. We keep them informed of all the parent’s meetings by sending everyone a calendar of events.” Brooks said. She shares about how important it is to have empathy with her families. “It is necessary to better serve them. You might pass that up and judge them completely. There are scars left when you misjudge somebody. My job is helping them find the tools and meeting them where they are”, said Brooks. “We also give parents a handbook of policies and a directory of resources, and if they need counseling we refer them to two counseling centers we use; First Baptist Family Institute and Hardin-Simmons Counseling Center.” When Brooks is not busy providing for her clients needs at work, she is either enjoying her home life spending quality time with her own family or preaching the word to her church members at Morningstar Baptist Church where she has been pastor for seven years. The church body is in the process of planning an anniversary celebration for her in March for completing her eighth year as their pastor. Although, it comes to no surprise since she is the type of person that enjoys giving of herself to others, according to Brooks, not too many people had knowledge about this part of her life. “I am an ordained minister. I strongly believe in God. I always have been and always will be. I have learned to allow Him to use me. He does call the equipped, and He does equip the called. I have a spiritual connection with Him. He gives me the strength and courage to tackle any task” Brooks said. Her career plans for the future are uncertain when she graduates in May with her degree in Social Work. In the meantime her life is full of blessings for blessing others, and she has proved that with God anything is possible. Brooks has laid her foundation as a mother and enjoying her life these days with her children and their accomplishments. One of her sermons might have already been about how important it is to have laughter, happiness, and joy in the family over material things and having an education. Making beautiful memories of her family will continue through her children who will carry on her legacy.

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