“After 43 years of hard work and dedication, it’s time to take a permanent vacation!” was the refrain at our retirement party, last summer, for Beryl S. Clark, MS, vice president for Early Childhood Services. At the surprise gala at the Cuckoo’s Nest in St. George, a crowd of Ms. Clark’s co-workers, former co-workers, agency staff, and friends bid her a fond farewell with music, food, and applause before she relocates to Georgia, where she will join husband Hugh and daughter Kelli.
“Known for her spirited personality and tenacity, Beryl Clark spent her professional career as a champion for poor and disadvantaged children and their families, working tirelessly and effectively to make our Head Start programs the finest in New York and nationwide models for early childhood services,” said SIMHS President/CEO Fern Zagor. Under her leadership, the SIMHS Head Start programs have received numerous honors and awards, including recognition as an “Outstanding Early Childhood Program” by the NYS Education Department.
Ms. Clark managed the four SIMHS Head Start/Early Learn Centers, located in Dongan Hills, Clifton, New Brighton and Mariners Harbor, that served more than 600 children last year, including its UPK classes.
After joining the SIMHS staff in 1971 as a Head Start teacher, Ms. Clark was promoted to Head Start Director in 1985, and had been in her current position since 2005. The long-time early childhood advocate was a member and officer of the Region II Head Start Association, which extends from New York to the Caribbean, for over 20 years, including six years as president. She also served as an Area Director of the NYC ACS Head Start for 20 years, and was a member of the board of the NYS Head Start Association for more than a decade.
Ms. Clark has received the Keystone Award from the Federation of Protestant Welfare Agencies; the Child Development Support Corporation Advocacy Award; the Dance of the Spirit Award from Women for Economic and Educational Mobility; and the National Head Start Association’s Award of Appreciation and the SIMHS Dr. Richard M. Silberstein Memorial Award.
She told her well wishers: “Working for the Mental Health Society has been a privilege. I have learned so much in a culture of support to children and families. My greatest love has been the opportunity to work with parents who really make the difference in their children’s lives. I will miss everyone.”