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Celebrating Terri Bronder and her many happy years at Head Start!

Teri Bronder, who in September, 1995 joined YCCAC’s Head Start program as a Family Advocate, working out of the North Berwick office, has accepted a new career opportunity with Child Development Services (CDS) in Arundel. She will be leaving her post here on Friday, June 21st—just three months shy of her 24th anniversary with Head Start.

“I’m looking forward to the work I’ll be doing at CDS,” Terri said. “It’s similar to what I’ve done here, but in a different setting, at a new location. I think it’s the right time for me to make this move.”

Terri worked only one year as a Family Advocate, applying at the start of her second year (1996) for a Special Services Coordinator position.

“And I got it,” she said. “It was with Betty Graffam, in Biddeford.”

Terri said she was “something like Betty’s assistant. Betty was the Disabilities and Health Manager back then—this was before we had Early Head Start, which Betty eventually took over. We were on Wentworth Street, in the old school we had there.”

When the YCCAC office complex in Sanford was built, in 2001, Terri relocated a third time. “I went from North Berwick to Biddeford to Sanford, all in just a handful of years.”

Though Terri’s job sites have changed over the years, the focus of her work has remained the same: advocating for children with disabilities, and their families.

“All parents want their children to succeed. It is no different for parents of children with disabilities. One of my roles as a Special Services Coordinator was to support these parents by helping them learn how to advocate for their children now and into the future—to be their children’s advocate as they continue through their school years.”

Terri said that working with the parents of children with disabilities has given her perspective on the challenges many families face.

“It can be overwhelming,” she said. “When you sit at a table and there are six or seven school staff telling you that your child is struggling or has disabilities, it literally overwhelms.”

Terri continued, “The parents need to know they can ask questions and have things explained to them. Sometimes the language can be confusing—the terminology and acronyms that we use can be intimidating for some parents. It was my job—well, one of my jobs— to make sure that they felt comfortable asking questions, and to know that their input was important to the work we were doing with their child.”
Head Start has been Terri’s “home” for nearly a quarter-century, and the anticipation of leaving it has given her cause to think about her work.

“I love the program; I don’t know what else to say. It’s helped so many people in our community. And personally, I’ve had some great opportunities with Head Start. I’m very grateful I got to go to Vermont for a week of training, and I’ll take that with me wherever I go. Also, I was fortunate to go with Betty Graffam to the 50th anniversary of Head Start in Washington, D.C. Betty was the acting director then, and it was such an honor for me to attend the event.”

In closing, Terri shared this story:

“I was in Shaw’s a while ago, and this dad came up to me and stopped me and thanked me for being part of the team that helped his child. I remember we had to have parent meetings and put things into the classroom to help this child be successful, and to help the parents . . . we would meet with them and give them ideas and activities and props to use at home. He stopped me and told me what a difference Head Start had made in his life, and how well his son was doing in kindergarten.

“It’s that kind of thing that makes you appreciate Head Start, to really understand just how much it means to so many families in our community.”