Wanda Corney“Head Start is not just for children, it’s for the whole family.”

Wanda Corney brought her son to Highland Head Start in 1989 when he was 4 years old. At the time she also had a 6-month old baby. She would take her son to school and stay with him in the classroom all day to volunteer and spend time with him.

Her involvement grew from the classroom to becoming the secretary for the Parent Committee. At the end of that school year in 1990, she received a Parent Volunteer Award and the director at the time, Ora Russel, asked her if she wanted to work as a Teacher Assistant in the program.

Wanda was hired as a TA in September of 1990 when Head Start was under Cope. She worked as a TA from 1990-1992. In August of 1992, she attended ASU Jonesboro CDA program and a was promoted to a Teacher at Silver City Head Start. Her career continued with Head Start and in 1994, she became an FES, known then as a Family Advocate. She worked as a Family Advocate at Chicot Early Head Start from 1994 to 1998 and experienced the organizational changes from Cope to CADC to UAMS (Dec. 1998). In 1998, Wanda became the Site Manager for Chicot Early Head Start and in 2006 she helped to open Southwest Head Start as the Site Manager.

During this time, she went back to college and received her Bachelor of Arts in Early Childhood Administration from Philander Smith College. She graduated with a 4.0 GPA and a Presidential Honors. In 2011 Wanda achieved an MBA from University of Phoenix with a GPA of 3.5.

Wanda moved on from working in Head Start in 2012, but she never left us. She went on to work for Early Head Start Arkansas Human Development Corps. As their Program Director in April of 2012. In 2014, she worked for HIPPY as a Maternal Infant Early Childhood Home Visitor. At this time, Wanda is the State Manager for the Parents as Teachers Program at Arkansas Children’s Hospital.

Wanda has been a member of UAMS Head Start and Early Head Start Policy Council since 2015, when Eva Williams asked her to join. All four of Wanda’s children attended Head Start and 3 of them graduated from high school. Her daughter is graduating from Arkansas Baptist College in May 2018. Wanda speaks highly of the people she has worked with in Head Start: from Ora Russel to Francis Lawson and Arby Kelly, who saw the abilities and skills she brought to the program and provided encouragement for her to continue in her education and her career.

As a Head Start employee, Wanda often times brought her children to the classroom and they would help out. They enjoyed working with her students and being of service to the program; her daughter even subbed at our program. Wanda also has two step daughters who worked as volunteers and one of them worked for the program as well. She now has a grandson who attended Metro Head Start with Ms. Parr and Ms. Neville; he is now on the honor roll at Little Rock Prep. When he first started there, his teachers asked his mom where he had gone to school and noted that he was well prepared for Kindergarten.

Looking back on her time working with Head Start, Wanda had nothing but good things to say about our program. She continues to send people here to get jobs. Wanda’s advice for families is to “be a supportive parent, go in the classroom, get to know the staff and the program. See what they offer. Head Start is not just for children, it’s for the whole family. If families become involved they will accomplish the programs mission.” She also encourages families to “get involved in the Parent Committee, it makes a difference for your child.” When Wanda sees families in the community, her first interaction with them is to find out how old their children are. If they are 6 weeks to 5 years, she tells them what UAMS Head Start and Early Head Start can offer their children and family.

If Wanda had not become involved in Head Start, she would have become a CEO of a business. Instead, she is able to use her education and skills to empower children and families living in poverty. What a gift she has been to us and our community. Wanda jokes that even when she tries to leave early childhood education, she always ends up back working with children and families. One of Wanda’s greatest joys working for HeadStart was helping families set goals and seeing the look on their faces when they achieved them. She felt she was helping families achieve things they may not have been able to do otherwise. She inspires us with these words, “You can always make a difference in someone’s life.”