Belinda Verdin has been working with East Coast Migrant Head Start Project since 2006. Her story is unique, as she works with three of her siblings at the ECMHSP Chandler Mountain Center in Alabama. The family is very passionate about supporting the ECMHSP mission. Please keep reading to learn more about my interview with Belinda.
Left to right: Belinda and Maria.
Can you tell me about your background?
In 1992, my family and I moved to the United States from Tula, Tamaulipas, Mexico. We settled in Raymondville, Texas. We struggled financially, so one of my older brothers dropped out of school at age 15. He found work in the tomato fields in Alabama and moved there. Shortly after, my family moved to Alabama as well. My mom and other brother also started working in the tomato fields. At the time, my sister Maria was a baby. Someone told my mom she was eligible for the Migrant and Seasonal Head Start program, but it took some time for my mom to feel comfortable leaving her there. There were times she was left with a babysitter and other times she was taken to the field. Maria started attending ECMHSP Chandler Mountain Center at the age of four.
Belinda at the ECMHSP Myakka Center.
How does your story begin with ECMHSP?
I was the first one in my family to obtain a high school diploma. In July 2006, I began working at the ECMHSP Chandler Mountain Center as an Assistant Teacher. I also got my Child Development Associate. This is my first season as a Family Services Worker. I wanted to learn more about the program and challenge myself in a different position. In 2011, I transferred to another Head Start center for the first time. They needed a lot of help at the ECMHSP Myakka Center in Florida, so I left my home in Alabama for six weeks. After this experience, I transferred between the centers for four more seasons.
What are your educational objectives?
My next objective is getting the Family Services Credential. I also want to finish my Associate’s Degree. I’m about 10 credits away. I would like to apply to the Family Services Coordinator position, if it becomes available. I love our mission and farmworker families. I enjoy the work that I do and to me, the most rewarding part of my job is when the families trust me and see me as their friend. The program has helped me and my family so much. We are thankful for it, so now we want to give the best of us by doing the best that we can in our jobs.
I also had the opportunity to interview Belinda’s sister, Maria Verdin, the Program Assistant at the ECMHSP Chandler Mountain Center in Alabama.
Maria at age 5 and Esteban at age 3.
What do you recall from your childhood?
I was born in Harlingen, Texas. My family moved to Alabama when I was a few months old. After feeling uneasy about leaving me with people she didn’t know, my mom finally enrolled me at ECMHSP Chandler Mountain Center at the age of four. I recall missing the fields at first. One of my first memories was picking tomatoes for fun and getting an allowance from one of my aunts. She then took me to the mall and let me pick out a new shirt. I liked the idea of buying my own things, but I also enjoyed all the new toys I had to play with at the ECMHSP Head Start Center. I didn’t have any toys of my own at home. The staff always made me feel accepted, although most of the time I didn’t have clothing in good shape. They were always very sweet to me. My favorite activity was arts and crafts. My little brother Esteban also attended Head Start for about four years. He’s very smart and excels at math. At age 15, I had a baby. Since I worked in agriculture part-time, I qualified to enroll my baby in the ECMHSP Migrant and Seasonal Head Start program. This helped me to continue school and work. While I was in high school, I remember ECMHSP staff encouraged me to apply upon graduation. When I graduated from high school, I continued to work in the fields.
Maria’s high school graduation.
How did you stop working in the fields?
My sister Beatriz told me about this open position, so I applied and got hired as a Program Assistant at ECMHSP Chandler Mountain Center in 2018. My sister Belinda was the first one to leave the fields, and I knew this was a good opportunity.
What are your goals for the future?
I’m currently studying part time at Snead State Community College. After I finish my Associate’s Degree, I want to get my Bachelor’s Degree. I enjoy what I do and want to continue learning.
Left to right: Beatriz Verdin, Health Disability Services Worker, Belinda Verdin, Family Service Worker, Maria Verdin, Program Assistant, and Eleazar Verdin, Infant/Toddler-Teacher CDA.
We hope to continue witnessing the Verdin family’s professional growth! Thank you for sharing your inspiring story with our community.