Children First Parent, CEO Honored for Statewide Impact

February 16, 2023

A girl in a playground tunnel with her head poking out and smiling
A girl in a yellow shirt eating lunch in a classroom

Children First, Inc., the exclusive provider of Head Start and Early Head Start services for Sarasota County, is proud to announce that parent and Policy Council Liaison Maria Somera and CEO Philip Tavill have been honored by the Florida Head Start Association (FHSA) for their impact in elevating excellence in Florida’s Head Start Community.

Representing nearly 43,000 children, 40,000 families, and 11,000 staff members across 134 programs, the FHSA works to create safe, healthy, nurturing learning environments for all children statewide with a focus on the early years in children’s lives, schools, and communities.

Honored with the FHSA Parent of the Year Award, Ms. Somera was recognized for her demonstrated ability to serve as a role model for her children and for making a positive difference in our community.

Ms. Somera has served as Chair of Children First’s Policy Council for the 2020-21 and 2021-22 school years, making decisions that directly improved the lives of our children, families, and staff during the most challenging moments of the pandemic. She currently serves as Policy Council Liaison, working alongside the agency’s Board of Directors in leading governance efforts.

“When you become aware of what others are doing for you, it makes you more engaged, not only in your own life but within your community. Because of Children First, I know that I am not alone and my future, and those of my family, are brighter than ever before,” says Ms. Somera.

CEO Philip Tavill was recognized with the FHSA Sargent Shriver Excellence in Community Service Award for his innovative achievement in his community service work for Head Start and Early Head Start.

Sargent Shriver was an American diplomat, politician, and activist. As the driving force behind the creation of the Peace Corps, he founded the Job Corps, Head Start, VISTA, Upward Bound, and other programs as the architect of the 1960s War on Poverty. Shriver received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the United States’ highest civilian honor, from President Bill Clinton in 1994.

“Sargent Shriver once said, ‘It is well to be prepared for life as it is, but it is better to be prepared to make life better than it is.’ I feel deeply grateful to be recognized with this award honoring the legacy of a true advocate for education and family well-being,” says CEO Philip Tavill. “Since its founding in 1965, Head Start has served more than 36 million children and we remain committed as an agency to ensuring the highest quality of service possible to those in need in our community.”