Jean Wallis Ares

Areas of Achievement: 
Community Building
Social Service

Honored By

Honored by: Ares, Charles E.
Date submitted: October 24, 2006

Born Jean Carol Wallis in Illinois on December 10, 1929, Jean entered the University of Arizona in 1948. Married in 1949, she left school to raise five children and returned to earn a Bachelor of Science degree in Child Development and Family Relations. She worked as a Head Start Family Educator and advocate of early childhood education until retirement in 1999.
Jean Ares' life has centered on the nurturing of children, her own three daughters and a son, an adopted foster son, five grandchildren and countless children and families she has taught in New York City and Tucson, before retiring as a Head Start Family Educator in 1999. While living in New York's Greenwich Village, she volunteered as a bilingual tutor for non-English speaking children newly arrived in the United States from around the globe.

In 1966, the Ares family returned to the University of Arizona community and Jean became active in the Tucson Community Council's effort to create an early childhood education program in a public housing project in southern Tucson. Jean helped organize a small band of volunteers, some faculty women and wives, who set out to try to create a volunteer Head Start school. Acquiring space in the Housing Authority's Santa Rosa Community Center with the help of TUSD, they persuaded doctors and dentists to provide free care to the children, recruited architects to create a playground and, most importantly, recruited neighborhood mothers to create a community-supported program. With little money and a move into a remodeled two bedroom apartment in the housing project, they lobbied the Mayor and Council for a teacher's salary, and finally became a funded part of the federal Head Start Program.

Jean then returned to the University of Arizona and earned a Bachelor of Science Degree in Child Development and Family Relations. She worked as a Family Educator for Child Parent Centers for 21 years. She eventually returned to Santa Rosa and spent her last seven years before retirement in 1999 as one of the innovators of a program for pregnant mothers and parents of infants and toddlers.

An informal history of Santa Rosa observed, "While many have helped, the refusal of Jean Ares to ever quit in face of insurmountable odds, and her devotion and generous gift of time must be documented. Santa Rosa owes her a great debt of gratitude." Celebrating Head Start's 40th anniversary, a recent publication described her as a "woman who has devoted her adult life to the service of the community around her; she has seen more and done more for families and children than any ten people put together... a legend."

Since retirement, she continues to serve as a bilingual tutor at an elementary school, as a representative of the Parent Connection at University Medical Center, providing bilingual information to parents of newborns, as a Ruling Elder of St. Mark's Presbyterian Church and as a member of the Board of Directors of the House of Neighborly Service. In 2005, Jean was awarded the Doris Ellis Volunteer Award "In recognition of her exceptional commitment to Arizona's Children Association."