Student recruitment begins for 2013-2014 school year at 16 centers
Harris County Department of Education Head Start chef Linda Owens gets her job satisfaction from the smiles and streams of happy chatter that accompany her meals. The 3-to 5-year olds she prepares meals for at Harris County Department of Education’s Head Start Fifth Ward and Pugh centers have perceptive taste buds.
“I make their meals tasty and colorful,” said the five-year HCDE employee. “I love to experiment. When I go in and see the smiles on their faces, it makes my day.”
A typical day starts with prep in the morning as she chops broccoli, celery and onions to heighten the appeal of meals such as chicken tetrazzini. Food nutritionists plan out a balanced, healthy menu for each center. Extra zeal and appeal is added by each center’s culinary specialist.
Food can also be an exercise in improving fine and gross motor skills, said Owens. When tilapia tacos are on the menu, they arrive in multiple bowls. Children create their own meal with fish, shredded lettuce, corn, green pepper and brown rice and are charged with rolling their own tacos. Although the results may be messy, they are an important part of the learning—and eating process, said Owens.
Do unto others is the credo that Owens tries to live by, and she insists that the feelings of the 115 children she prepares food for are always valued.
“I try to treat them like I want to be treated,” she said. “I try to walk in their shoes.”
Center Manager Ricardo Palacios calls Owens “good-hearted.”
“She’s all about the kids,” he said.
Her own grandson Brandon, 5, was diagnosed at age 3 with vision and speech disabilities. He has attended HCDE Head Start for three years and has benefitted from regular sessions with a speech therapist. Owens has seen his self-confidence and school readiness skills climb.
“I am an avid Head Start supporter,” said the grandmother.
As she watches each child she feeds grow and develop, she hopes that she has played a part in helping them establish lifelong healthy eating habits.The nickname “Ms. Orange” attached itself to the matriarch after several of the children couldn’t pronounce Ms. Owens. When Ms. Orange enters the room with her rolling cart of food, the menu is full of joy and love.
Harris County Department of Education Head Start serves families residing in east and northeast Harris County and is currently recruiting students for the 2013-2014 school year. HCDE Head Start provides 16 area centers for over 1,250 children and their families. Head Start is a federally funded program that prepares children ages 3-5 for school. It also supports and promotes strong families through parent participation and training. Low-income families and families of children with special needs benefit from services. For more information, call (713) 672-9343, www.hcde-texas.org.
About HCDE: Harris County Department of Education provides education services to the general public and 26 school districts throughout Harris County and beyond. Services include adult education, programs to promote safe schools, after-school programs, therapy services, professional development for educators, special schools, alternative certification for principals and teachers, Early Childhood Intervention and Head Start programs. We offer purchasing procurement, grant development, program research and evaluation, records management, and school finance support. Since 1889, our services continue to evolve to meet the needs of our education public. Visit us at www.hcde-texas.org.
Carol E. Vaughn, Communications/Media Relations Manager
Harris County Department of Education
713-696-0756 office, 281-660-9205 cell