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White House Honors ASU Alumnus As Champion Of Change

Arizona State University alumnus Angelica Vilaverde was honored as a Champion of Change at the White House on Monday. She is one of 11 individuals from Head Start programs across the country who earned the honor.

Honorees were commended for their commitment to delivering on the promise of Head Start, a comprehensive early childhood development program designed to provide education, health and social services to low income children and their families.

“Today’s Head Start Champions of Change have collectively shaped the lives of thousands of children and their families,” said Roberto Rodriguez, Special Assistant to the President for Education Policy. “Each day, these Champions work to innovate and forge new paths to deliver the support that our most vulnerable children and families need to reach their full potential and break the intergenerational cycle of poverty. This work is essential in helping our country win the future.”

While participating in a panel discussion with other Champion of Change honorees at the White House, Vilaverde cited the parent-child relationship and early education as significant indicators of children’s success. Parents that she works with represent many nationalities from Somali and Burmese refugee families to children whose first language is Spanish.

“You can’t build a house without a foundation. I feel as a teacher that we are providing that foundation for them to go on their educational journey,” she said.

Vilaverde, who earned her master’s degree in infant-family practice and her bachelor’s degree in family and human development from Arizona State University, is an Early Head Start child development specialist who works at Southwest Human Development Early Head Start and Head Start located at the Educare Arizona facility in Phoenix. She teaches children ranging in ages from 1 to 3. Involving parents in their children’s education is an important aspect of her work as is reaching goals for each child that may range from increasing vocabulary to answering specific questions.

“Angelica is truly a gifted and sensitive teacher of very young children. She is a wonderful example of the knowledge and skills that we hope the graduates of our Master of Advanced Study in Infant-Family Practice undergraduate Early Intervention Certificate acquire during their time with us,” said Robert Weigand, Angelica’s mentor, Child Development Laboratory director and Cowden Distinguished Senior Lecturer in the School of Social and Family Dynamics at ASU.

Vilaverde is hoping for an expansion of Head Start in the future and for more leaders to recognize the importance and value of early childhood education.

“I think Head Start is a wonderful program because it really invests in these children to make them successful and school ready,” she said.

During the panel discussion at the White House, she also mentioned that her proudest moment was encouraging the mother of one of her students from Mexico with a degree in psychology to pursue her dreams even though the mom wasn’t confident of her English skills.

“Now she is a child development associate at one of our other sites,” Vilaverde said.

Learning that she had been named a Champion of Change was a “complete shock,” but she was excited and honored to have the opportunity to go to the White House.

“I’m glad that the Obama administration is recognizing teachers for the work that they do,” she said.

The Champions of Change program was created as part of President Obama’s Winning the Future initiative. Each week, a different sector is highlighted and groups of Champions, ranging from educators to entrepreneurs, are recognized for the work they are doing to serve and strengthen their communities.

For more information about the Champion of Change event at the White House, visit the White House’s website at whitehouse.gov/champions