Giving Back to East Coast!
Antonia Rios was an ECMHSP parent a few years ago. However, she’s still involved with our Head Start program. Keep reading to learn more about her story.
Could you please tell me about your background?
I’m from Oaxaca, Mexico. Back home I lived in a very dangerous area with gang violence. I lost many family members, including one of my siblings. My parents went through financial hardship and it was hard to put food on the table. After my mom passed away, my father had to sell most of our things to make ends meet. I decided to cross over to have a chance at a better future. In 2000, I settled in South Carolina. At first, I started working picking peaches, then migrated to Florida to pick oranges and tomatoes. My son Benny was born in 2002. I took Benny to work with me in the fields during his first two to three years. I knew they weren’t the safest conditions, but I didn’t have any other option at the time.
How did you hear about our Migrant and Seasonal Head Start program?
In 2011, one of our bosses told us about these services available to farmworker parents. At the time, my youngest son was one year old. David started attending and was part of the Migrant and Seasonal Head Start program until he was old enough for kindergarten. He’s now nine years old and will soon enter the fourth grade. My son excels in all subjects, especially in mathematics, always bringing home perfect test scores. His teachers have even discussed whether it would be beneficial for David to skip a grade.
David at our ECMHSP Colleton Center.
How has ECMHSP benefited your child since they started attending classes?
Speech therapy has been the biggest help. They discovered David had a speech impairment a few months before he turned one. Before attending Head Start, he was behind in basic skills and it was going to be difficult for me to communicate with him. While attending ECMHSP Colleton Center, therapy was provided three times a week. I started seeing the positive results in my son.
Did you maintain strong relationships with ECMHSP staff?
Yes, I always wanted to know how my child was doing in school. I attended as many parent monthly meetings as possible. At the center, I got chosen to be a parliamentarian. I wish I could’ve been more involved, but other positions would’ve required me to travel. I knew how important education was, so I stopped migrating for work in 2015. I wanted Benny to focus on his studies since he was about to enter high school.
Can you please share a challenge that you’ve had to overcome with the help of ECMHSP?
When applying for my residency, I received support from ECMHSP staff. They provided important paperwork to help my lawyer. ECMHSP always welcomed my family with open arms. Benny, a junior in high school, comes with me to visit the ECMHSP Colleton Center from time to time. Alison McCullough, ECMHSP Health & Disability Services Specialist, has become one of his mentors. She recently encouraged him to volunteer in a pilot project called Promotores de Bienestar. Through this training, several members of the farmworker community will learn to support themselves and other migrant families as they identify and deal with stress in healthy ways. Benny is at the top of his class and looks forward to going to college next year.