Finding Opportunity Amidst Discomfort and Adversity

Head Start BOLD Leader: Maggie Evans

In early spring, NHSA named 14 individuals as 2020 BOLD Prize winners in recognition of their extraordinary leadership in response to the unique challenges they encountered in 2020… Over the course of this summer, NHSA is sharing insights from each BOLD Prize Winner about leading through unprecedented times and overcoming uncertainty and adversity to support both staff and the children and families Head Start serves.

A collaborative, empathetic approach to leadership and a focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion to understand and address the unique needs of ABCD’s migrant and seasonal farmworker families make Maggie Evans the 2020 BOLD Leader winner.

Since 1999, Maggie Evans has been the chief executive officer of Agri-Business Child Development (ABCD), a Head Start grantee operating 12 migrant and seasonal programs across the state of New York, as well as a regular Head Start program in Seneca County and an Early Head Start program in Orange County.

Maggie has led ABCD boldly during the COVID-19 pandemic, thoughtfully collaborating with program staff and families and prioritizing families’ well-being at every turn. In March 2020, ABCD transitioned to remote services to protect the health of staff and families, but immediately set up systems to deliver food to families and educate children at home.

Given the nature of ABCD families’ work in agriculture, Maggie understood that parents would still need to work in person, and made reopening for in-person services a high priority. For the past year, ABCD’s focus has been on the physical isolation of families and staff, their basic needs such as food and sustenance, their mental health, as well as financial literacy needs, and technological awareness.

During this time, Maggie did not lose sight of other critical priorities, including diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI).

ABCD established a DEI Committee made up of three center-level staff and three staff from the leadership team, to address issues of equity, diversity, and inclusion in ABCD.

In her own words:

My strength during this time was my unwavering support and advocacy on behalf of staff and families. What I would share with Head Start programs: I have learned that with discomfort and adversity comes opportunity and that there is an innate need in most, to fight together and unite in moments of uncertainty. I have learned that promoting equity, diversity, and inclusion works best when people take ownership of the process and find their true value within the organization. I have learned to listen to my years of experience as I balance my decisions with new ideas in sometimes uncharted territories. I have learned that trusting your team and engaging the vision of others, opens many doors. I have learned to recognize when to be cautious and when to be audacious. I have learned that ABCD is truly blessed to have an array of community partners ready to support us.

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Through all of 2020’s turbulence, Head Start leaders boldly faced the challenges and lived up to an unprecedented level of extraordinary leadership. The National Head Start Association’s 2020 BOLD was created to recognize, celebrate, and reward this bold leadership.

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