Making the Grade |

Making the Grade

Summit Daily/Reid WilliamsSheila Groneman, director of Summit County Head Start

Sheila Groneman is the Summit County director of Head Start, a national, comprehensive child development program that aims to increase school-readiness among young children of low-income families.Groneman has been a local leader in promoting and developing early childhood programs in Summit County for more than 20 years.INSPIRATION: I was the kid on the block that always set up the classroom to play school. Also, I have a disabled older brother, so I have always championed vulnerable children and wanted to be the advocate to support and protect them.

MOTIVATION: I’m from that John F. Kennedy era, embracing that belief that all persons can make a difference and each person should try to make a difference. The difference I want to make is in the lives of children and families.I see early childhood as an arena that’s really impactful on how a child develops, and I’ve always enjoyed young children. I did a brief stint in fifth grade and knew I needed to drop down.Also, being in the early childhood field gives you an opportunity to work with families – to support and assist parents in their role.PHILOSOPHY: In order to be effective, children’s programming needs to address all the child’s needs in all areas.

That’s why I really feel aligned with Head Start and its comprehensive approach. It’s more than just the classroom learning experience – it offers a unique component that requires parents to be involved in decision-making, it includes services like comprehensive health care and developmental screenings, and the children get a meal every day.MODERN CHALLENGES: One of the more challenging pieces of Head Start is the income-qualifying guidelines set by the federal government. When you live in a resort community, our wages are higher, but so is our cost of living. So, even though a family is in tremendous need, it might miss the cutoff by $1,000.ACCOMPLISHMENTS: I’m proud of my children. I’m also proud of the early childhood programming I’ve been able to help establish here in Summit County: school-age childcare, childcare resource and referral, Head Start, my work on the Summit County Preschool board.ROLE MODELS: Women who go beyond to make a difference for children and aren’t afraid to step into the policy-making arena: Colorado state Senator Joan Fitz-Gerald; U.S. Senator and former First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton; former Texas Governor Ann Richards; Marian Wright Edelman, founder of Children’s Defense Fund. Those are people that inspire me.

IF I HAD $100,000: I would make a deposit into a community endowment fund for early childhood programs.EXTRACURRICULAR: Spending time with family and friends, cooking, shopping and traveling to my favorite spots: Boston, New York and Florida beaches.-Julie SutorJulie Sutor can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 203, or at

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