Rafael Pacheco “I feel so good about what Head Start does for kids. And with eleven kids of my own, I’m awfully happy there is such a program.”

Every September fourth for the rest of his life, Rafael Pacheco is going to give thanks for this life and the eleven kids who call him Poppa. “It was on Labor Day when I took six of my kids, along with some other families, out on a 28-foot boat to go fishing. But we got hit by a couple of huge waves,” he recalls. “The boat capsized and we were stuck out there for five hours. We screamed, but there was no one to hear. My friend’s two year old was lost, and in another couple of hours, I’d have lost my children too. But what all that did for me,” continues Rafael, “was to make me even more dedicated to my kids: they always come first.” But it’s not only his own children that Rafael has made priority #1.

“I’ve been involved with the Head Start program for a long time, and now I’m the chairperson of the Policy Council for all of LA County,” says Rafael.

“We’re involved in making recommendations for this huge federal program. We evaluate health, education, disabilities, and all sorts of other issues. And then we make recommendations about hiring all the right people for Head Start programs. I’ve had a baby and my twins in Head Start, and I can’t tell you how important this is for parents. It allows us to go out and find jobs, and gives us all a chance to move onward and upward.”

Moving onward and upward is what Rafael has been doing since taking part in a unique SMC-LA County Office of Education partnership program. “I’ve been in all these workshops here that have taught me how to deliver education to children,” says Rafael, who plans to make a career in computer animation. “When I think of school, it brings back memories of my own childhood. It makes me want to make sure that no child ever leaves school, until they’ve had every chance to do well.”

Read more stories from present and past years in the SMC Student Spotlight Archive.