Just a few years ago, Jumar Palmer was an unemployed single father concerned about ensuring his 3-year-old daughter Arionna received the quality education she needed and deserved.
“Taking care of my daughter has always been my top priority,” Palmer said. “I knew that as her father, I had a responsibility to nurture her in her formative years, but that hasn’t always been so easy.”
When times got tough, he often had no one to turn to. That is, until Palmer heard about Matrix Head Start (Vistas Nuevas) through some community members and enrolled his daughter in the program.
In Southwest Detroit, Matrix Head Start (Vistas Nuevas) strives for an 85 percent enrollment rate for eligible 3 to 5 year olds and the best educational outcomes for the city’s most vulnerable and youngest children.
“Our model is multifaceted, which is important for individuals during their early childhood years,” said Dr. Marcella Wilson, president and CEO of Matrix Human Services. “We provide children with shelter, nutrition, education and a support system that branches out to their parents and caretakers.”
Every child enrolled in Matrix Head Start (Vistas Nuevas) program, including Arionna, receives hearing and vision screening, nutrition assessment, educational support and other essential services to increase their long-term success in school and life. Additionally, 99.9 percent of enrollees are up-to-date on their immunizations at no cost to the program by utilizing existing health care funding streams.
“Children can’t be expected to succeed when it comes to education if they are hungry or sick, and our program takes a collaborative approach to success very seriously,” Wilson said.
Nearly 80 percent of enrollees at Matrix Head Start (Vistas Nuevas) perform above normal expected gains in math, science and literacy, and their parents and caretakers are regularly encouraged to participate in Transition to Success (TTS), a system of care provided by Matrix Human Services.
The TTS program is funded through a three-year $572,304 grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation (WKKF) to help parents like Palmer.
“The center administrator at the Head Start saw potential in me and encouraged me to stay and volunteer with the program,” he said. “I enjoyed the breadth of work, as it gave me time to interact with my daughter and learn more about best practices in caretaking and early childhood education. From there, I transitioned into TTS, where I met other parents that I could talk to for support. It was a beautiful thing.”
TTS is a model of care that transitions individuals and families out of poverty to economic self-sufficiency through a structured, comprehensive, integrated and scientifically driven system of care. This system engages existing human services, such as health, education and government.
“As a result of the funding from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, we now have a sustainable, scalable, measurable, multigenerational system of care to treat the condition of poverty,” Wilson said. “For many of our clients, TTS is the first time that they are experiencing being needed rather than being needy in an environment outside of their home. This brings individuals tremendous integrity and self-respect, which then improves their self-esteem and better impacts their parenting and caretaking abilities.”In 2012 alone:
- More than 36,000 individuals and families utilized services offered by Matrix Human Services with 1,369 young children enrolled in Matrix Head Start (Vistas Nuevas)
- Fifty six percent of participants enrolled in the TTS Employment Center were placed in jobs and training programs or internships despite a 9.5 percent unemployment rate in the city of Detroit
- Eighty percent of students impacted by TTS improved at least one grade level in both reading and math
“TTS provided me with an opportunity to see the world from a different perspective. I no longer felt alone, and I began to dream for myself,” Palmer said.
Currently, 84 outside organizations around the country are considering adopting the TTS model, and Matrix Human Services is piloting the program in Maryland, Virginia and Wisconsin, according to Wilson. Since its inception, TTS has been used to transition at-risk individuals in 13 social service organizations, and 87 individuals in Detroit have been trained to assist new members of the program.
“My daughter amazes me every day. People need to look at enrolling their children in Head Start as enrolling them in school. Not enough parents take advantage of the incredible things Matrix Head Start (Vistas Nuevas) can do – and has done,” Palmer said.
If Palmer hadn’t decided to enroll his daughter in Matrix Head Start (Vistas Nuevas) program, she wouldn’t have received the necessary early childhood education, and he wouldn’t have become a member of TTS.
“I am now gainfully employed with a beautiful home, and my daughter is a straight-A student. Because of Matrix Human Services, I hope to someday go to nursing school. These programs have changed our lives,” Palmer said.