Alum in Action: Giving Local Children & Families a ‘Head Start’

Michael Tomas Mitchell (‘11 M.Ed. Early Childhood Education) is the Executive Director of Acelero Learning Clark County. Acelero Learning provides early childhood education and family engagement services to approximately 1500 Head Start children here in Clark County. Head Start is a Federal program that promotes school readiness for children (aged 0-5) from low-income families by enhancing their cognitive, social, and emotional development in areas including language and literacy, for example.

Mr. Mitchell obtained a B.S. in Sociology from Brigham Young University before joining Teach for America, where he was assigned to his first choice city: Las Vegas. While here, he entered the College of Education’s Alternate Route to Licensure program, completing an M.Ed. in Early Childhood Education in 2011. He attributes much of his current success to the professors within the College, recalling how they showed him how to be a teacher and leader, how they provided ongoing learning and support in his current role, and how they approached his ARL cohort as, first and foremost, professionals, a distinction he carries into his own approach to adult learning. He also taught courses within the College of Education, which has led to hiring some of his former students for Acelero, perpetuating the College’s impact on the community in meaningful ways.

In his position as Executive Director, Mr. Mitchell is responsible for providing the twelve schools and nearly 300 employees under his supervision with direction and leadership in pursuit of Head Start’s mission of closing the achievement gap and building a better future for children, families, and communities. Acelero’s program has proven successful for many enrolled—Students tested after two years in Acelero programs reach gains that are nearly double average national growth, and are among the largest-known recorded gains for a Head Start program.

Though much of his focus is on student growth and achievement, Michael’s goals and Acelero Learning’s comprehensive nature goes far beyond a focus on child outcomes alone. As such, Mr. Mitchell’s responsibilities also include is also effectively distributing resources at his disposal to where they are most needed, such as getting food to families across Clark County through partnership with Three Square. Acelero also works with families to provide wraparound support out-of-classroom issues, including strategies that assist with student advocacy, finding employment or financial support, and help obtaining a GED or learning English.

Michael is motivated by his own experiences as a young learner without access to sufficient educational resources, as well as by clear research which indicates that access to high quality education is among the top indicators of upward socioeconomic mobility. He is the proud son of a former Head Start student, herself the child of first generation immigrants. Mr. Mitchell recognizes the impact that Head Start had on his family and on his own success. He notes that in some ways he is similar to a doctor—Once he has seen a patient, he hopes not to see them again, as that means they are healthy and thriving. As more students and more generations are impacted Acelero Learning, Michael hopes the need for such programs will fade into memory, allowing him to turn his attention to the next area in which he can make his mark in education.