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Apr 01 2022

Blog: Geminus Head Start employee talks program celebration of 25 years and making a difference

Thomas Walker started his career at Geminus beginning with music. He aspired for a career in singing during his time in college, which eventually switched to paralegal work, then real estate. Still unsure what to pursue, Walker returned to school, studying speech and hearing science and speech and language pathology. His goal from there would be to work with professional voice users; however, he needed experience working with children to finish his studies.

With his love for voice and degree in speech-language pathology as a guide, Walker began working at Geminus Head Start as a quality assurance manager. Geminus Head Start, which celebrates its 25th anniversary this year, has been home to Walker’s career for eight years, and has shown him how valuable his work is for families throughout the program.

As quality assurance manager, he oversees numerous components, from gathering program information for annual reporting and assisting with enrollment to ensuring that the organization stays updated with internal, local, and state requirements.

Data and information from Head Start programs are collected, analyzed and reported to the state through Walker. This process highlights progress or improvements needed in particular areas to ensure the program maintains high-quality standards, meets state and national accreditation requirements and evaluates essential needs throughout a community.

“The reason we do that, you identify the strengths and the particular needs of a community,” said Walker. “That translates where and how to recruit our families and children so that we make sure that we are targeting our recruitment efforts to the families who would most need our services.”

Geminus Head Start prepares for a new school year with open enrollment events, such as community outreach fairs, from March to August. With Walker’s assistance, the enrollment process is now electronic, making it quicker and more efficient for families and staff. With this new process, families can sit with intake staff and fill out applications while participating and learning about other resources Geminus can offer.

“If they need help signing up for food stamps, our staff can help,” said Walker. “If they need help finding a pediatrician, a medical home or a dentist, our team helps with that. Suppose they need help to get to appointments; our staff help with that. It’s really whatever the families need.”

Throughout the year, approximately 2,000 children and pregnant mothers come through the program at any given time. Returning students are enrolled first, with the child of a family with the next highest need registered until enrollment spots fill. To understand the value of what Geminus does, community members and partners can participate in brainstorming, evaluation and feedback.

“It’s a parent-driven program first and foremost, but those external stakeholders in the community are valued,” said Walker. “Their input is also valued because the little ones we are educating now could grow as possible community leaders in the future and get involved in the community. It’s all a cycle.”