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Hudson-Hamilton earns national honor


Donna Hudson-Hamilton, director of Early Childhood Connections, has added a national award to her list of accomplishments.

She's been named the national Head Start Association administrator of the year and will receive her award in May at the national Head Start convention in Washington.

Hudson-Hamilton advanced to the national competition after being named the state and Region VII Head Start Association administrator of the year by the Kansas Head Start Association.

Hays USD 489 serves as the grantee for Head Start, and Hudson-Hamilton was named director in 2003.

The name was changed in 2011 to reflect the variety of early childhood programs.

Hudson-Hamilton said she's honored to receive the award and credits her staff of 60 for their support. The staff includes a management team that specializes in specific areas -- health, social services, education, home visits and center-based programs.

"We all work together to plan," she said.

The program recently has put strategies in place to assist staff who might have secondary trauma when dealing with families in crisis.

Leading Head Start and early childhood programs requires a combination of skills including grant writing, documenting grant requirements, managing human resources and a knowledge of early childhood development.

"There's quite a few job skills wrapped up there, and the job seems to grow all the time," she said.

Innovation, collaboration, going beyond the requirements and using available resources all are criteria the selection committee takes into account, Hudson-Hamilton said.

Ideas for innovation and collaboration come from a variety of sources, including brainstorming and problem solving when staff sees a need.

The programs are focusing on the social emotional needs of children.

"Those soft skills are what make children successful when they start school, so we've been trying to focus on some of those soft skills and mental health needs of our children."

While some of the programs are income based, not all are.

"Education or income alone doesn't prepare you to be a parent, so it's nice to have some evidence-based parenting information coming to you," Hudson-Hamilton said. "We've tried to take advantage of every opportunity to serve every child we can. Sometimes with the funding, we can't always maintain it. But my philosophy is, if we can get funding to serve children for a while, we're going to do that to serve more children so they're school-ready."