OUR HISTORY

 1970's 

The Leadership Conference of Women’s Religious, a Catholic faith-based organization, begin a project to provide health support to farmworker families on the east coast of the United States. The name of the project is The East Coast Migrant Health Project. The Leadership Conference of Women’s Religious expands its project services to include The East Coast Migrant Head Start Project. Some Head Start services are provided directly by The Leadership Conference of Women’s Religious, but most Head Start services are provided by local nonprofit organizations and school districts known as “delegate agencies.”

 

 1980's 

The Leadership Conference of Women’s Religious decide to relinquish its Head Start grant.  The delegate agencies work together to form a new nonprofit organization, The East Coast Migrant Head Start Project. Incorporated in the Commonwealth of Virginia, East Coast Migrant Head Start Project would carry on the work of The Leadership Conference of Women’s Religious under the leadership of Executive Director, Sister Geraldine O’Brien.

 

 1990's 

East Coast Migrant Head Start Project expands Head Start services to more farmworker families. The focus of this expansion is upon migrant farmworker families who travel for the purpose of engaging in agricultural labor involving the harvesting and production of tree and field crops. At the end of the decade, Sister Geraldine O’Brien announces her retirement after a career dedicated to those less fortunate. In addition, the Head Start Act is amended to allow seasonal farmworker families – families who do not move for the purpose of engaging in agricultural labor – to qualify for services.

 

 2000's 

Rafael Guerra is selected as our new Executive Director. Rafael leads East Coast Migrant Head Start Project through a wave of expansion to new farmworker communities. Rafael also brings a special emphasis on improving quality throughout our project. Increasingly, East Coast Migrant Head Start Project begins providing services through a direct service model rather than through a delegate agency model. In addition, the mission of East Coast Migrant Head Start Project is expanded to include advocacy for the farmworker community. At the end of the decade, Rafael Guerra announces his retirement after a lifetime of service to farmworkers. 

 

 2010's   

Dr. José S. Villa is elevated to the position of Chief Executive Officer. Dr. Villa succeeded, John E. Menditto, who guided East Coast Migrant Head Start Project through the Designation Renewal System before stepping back into his role as Chief Legal Officer. Dr. Villa, like Rafael Guerra before him, focuses his efforts on improving the quality of services and continues to move East Coast Migrant Head Start Project to serving families in a direct service model. During this time, East Coast Migrant Head Start Project experienced a substantial increase in the number of non-mobile, seasonal families it served. In addition, at the end of the decade, eligibility for the Migrant and Seasonal Head Start program was expanded to include all families performing “agricultural labor” – not merely agricultural workers involved in the harvesting and production of tree and field crops. 

 2020's  

2020: Dr. Villa announces his retirement and is succeed by Maria C. Garza. Maria, like Rafael and José before her, grew up in a farmworker family. Her experience as a farmworker child, and her career in leadership positions supporting the farmworker cause, made her uniquely qualified to lead East Coast Migrant Head Start Project into the next decade. The beginning of Maria’s tenure has been marked by a series of successes for East Coast Migrant Head Start Project– from navigating the COVID-19 pandemic, to expansion of ECMHSP’s model of excellent services to Indiana and Oklahoma; from extending services to agricultural workers in dairy, seafood, and nurseries to the authorship of preschool books published by Scholastic Education.