MEET Emily Elkins

Emily was once a young stay-at-home mom without a high school diploma. Today, Emily is a loving grandmother, as well as a college graduate who runs Head Start's Raleigh County program.


Spending an afternoon with Emily Elkins, her wit is quick and her warmth radiates.

And as the saying goes, the apple doesn't fall far from the tree; witnessing Emily's two daughters, Shelley and Amy, interact with their mother, it is clear that their bond is unbreakable. They share their mother's humor, and the laughter is ever-present. Emily currently serves as the Head Start Director in Raleigh County, but she started out as a Head Start mom herself.

Emily enrolled her daughter immediately; Amy began attending a preschool program, enabling her to interact and meet other children her age. But Head Start provided the Elkins with so much more. Monthly parent meetings are an important part of Head Start's initiative to support the family as a whole, and transportation was provided for parents to attend the meetings. During these meetings, parents attended classes on subjects like nutrition and financial management, among other things. With transportation to and from the facility, Emily was nominated as her Head Start's Policy Council member.

At the age of 21, Emily was new to Wyoming County from the "big city" of Columbus, Ohio. She moved to West Virginia with her husband and daughter Amy. Having dropped out of school at 18, Emily was a stay-at-home mother, and Emily's husband drove their only car to work each day. With no preschool available at the time, Emily and Amy were confined to their home much of the day, until she heard about the Head Start program.

She eventually had two more children: another daughter named Shelley, and a son, Larry. Because Head Start gives job priority to their parents, Emily grew more and more involved, while also working to attain her G.E.D. with Head Start's help. She began filling in when the program's cook fell ill, yet she found herself leaving the kitchen too often to socialize with the children. She realized her true passion was being with the kids, so she took a position as a teacher's aid.

But in order to move up to a full-time teaching position, Emily required a bachelor's degree. With Head Start providing the resources and funding, Emily then began taking classes at a local community college during the evenings and weekends. "I discovered I really liked school," Emily says, "And I am really good at it!" She not only excelled, but made the Dean's List each semester. With her AA degree, she continued as a full-time Head Start teacher, and held that position for nearly twelve years. "There is something about these little people," she tells me. "They'll take everything you give them," and she loved giving them her love and attention.

After obtaining her AA degree in Early Childhood at the local community college, Emily began work toward her Bachelor's degree through Concord Universiy. In 2006 she completed that degree. In 2002 she became the Early Childhood Specialist of the MountainHeart Head Start/Early Head Start Program, where she had been employeed since 1978.

After moving to Raleigh County in 2008, she began her employment with RCCAA in 2009. She took on her current role as director three years ago, and now supervises the entire program for Raleigh County. Her children -- Amy, Shelley, and Larry -- are all college educated and successful parents themselves. When Emily isn't busy "being the boss," she spends time with her grandchildren; she especially loves to read books with them, continuing to spread her love of education and her joy for learning.

A former high school dropout, Emily not only received her G.E.D, but now holds a bachelor's degree in early childhood development for preschool and special needs. Most importantly, the opportunity to finish school helped to show her children that college was an attainable feat. "I always thought that one day I'd be a nurse. I would have never thought to go into teaching," Emily says. Head Start provided her with an opportunity to fulfill her potential as a working mother, a teacher, and a student herself.