Head Start and Early Head Start programs support the mental, social, and emotional development of children from birth to age 5. In addition to education services, programs provide children and their families with health, nutrition, social, and other services. Head Start services are responsive to each child and family's ethnic, cultural, and linguistic heritage.
Head Start encourages the role of parents as their child's first and most important teachers. Programs build relationships with families that support positive parent-child relationships, family well-being, and connections to peers and community. Head Start began as a program for preschoolers. Three- and 4-year-olds made up over 80 percent of the children served by Head Start last year.
Early Head Start serves pregnant women, infants, and toddlers. Early Head Start programs are available to the family until the child turns 3 years old and is ready to transition into Head Start or another pre-K program. Early Head Start helps families care for their infants and toddlers through early, continuous, intensive, and comprehensive services.
Local servicesare delivered by about 1,700 public and private nonprofit and for-profit agencies. These agencies receive grants from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Head Start agencies design services for children and families that meet the needs of their local community and the Head Start Program Performance Standards. Some cities, states, and federal programs offer funding to expand Head Start and Early Head Start to include more children within their communities.
Both Head Start and Early Head Start programs offer a variety of service models, depending on the needs of the local community. Programs may be based in centers, schools, or family child care homes. Early Head Start services are provided for at least six hours per day, whereas Head Start preschool services may be half-day (four hours) or full-day. Another program option is home-based services, in which a staff person visits children once a week in their own home and works with the parent as the child's primary teacher. Children and families who receive home-based services meet twice monthly with other enrolled families for a group learning experience facilitated by Head Start staff.
What Is School Readiness?
The Office of Head Start (OHS) defines school readiness as children being ready for school, families ready to support their children's learning, and schools ready for the children who enter their doors.
Families are engaged in their children's learning and development and are poised to support the lifelong success of their child. Head Start recognizes that parents are their children's primary teachers and advocates.
As Head Start programs, parents, and schools work together to promote school readiness and engage families as their children make the transition to kindergarten, schools become ready for children. Learn more about school readiness.
What Are Comprehensive Services?
Head Start comprehensive services include:
Screenings and follow-up for health, development, and behavior
Health and safety
Social and emotional health
Services for children with disabilities
Comprehensive services are delivered in a learning environment that is individualized to support children's growth in the five essential domains. A minimum of 10 percent of a program's total enrollment must be children with disabilities. Additionally, Head Start services are designed to be responsive to each child and family's ethnic, cultural, and linguistic heritage.
How Many Children and Families Were Served in FY2013?
Over a million children are served by Head Start programs every year, including children in every U.S. state and territory and in American Indian and Alaska Native (AIAN) communities.
In fiscal year (FY) 2013:
Head Start programs served 932,164 children and their families
Early Head Start programs served 150,100 children and 6,391 pregnant women and their families
Migrant and Seasonal Head Start (MSHS), which serves children from birth to age 5, served an additional 31,907 children
AIAN programs served 21,055 Head Start children, 4,240 Early Head Start children, and 482 pregnant women and their families
FY2013 includes services delivered Fall 2012 through Summer 2013.
Since 2004, OHS has produced Head Start fact sheets that summarize the funding given to agencies and services provided to children over the year. Read the Head Start fact sheets for more information.
What Head Start Research Is Conducted by HHS?
HHS commissions research to better understand the different variations in programs and to guide program improvement in both Head Start and Early Head Start. For example, Head Start Family and Child Experiences Survey (FACES) and Baby FACES provide a picture of children's development and academic readiness over their time in Head Start and Early Head Start. HHS also commissions shorter term studies such as the Head Start CARES project, which compared different curricula directed at social and emotional development. Read more about the research.
What Is the History of Head Start?
Head Start programs began in the summer of 1965 as part of President Lyndon Johnson's War on Poverty. Early Head Start was added in 1994. Head Start has served more than 30 million children since 1965, growing from an eight-week demonstration project to include full-day/full-year services and many program options. Read more about the history of Head Start.
About the Office of Head Start
Head Start and Early Head Start are administered by the Office of Head Start (OHS), within the Administration for Children and Families (ACF), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).
Dr. Blanca Enriquez is the director of OHS. She has been an administrator and supervisor of Head Start programs since 1987.
Blanca has been active in early childhood education for more than 40 years. Most recently, she was the executive director of a Texas Head Start program that has won many local, state, and national awards for excellence. She also has served on the Texas State Secretary's Advisory Committee on Early Childhood Education and was appointed by former President George W. Bush as an advisory board member for the National Institute for Literacy. She holds a master's of education degree from the University of Texas at El Paso and a doctorate in education administration from New Mexico State University.
OHS administers grant funding and oversight to the agencies that provide Head Start services in communities across the country. OHS also provides federal policy direction and a training and technical assistance (T/TA) system to assist grantees in providing comprehensive services to eligible young children and their families.
Head Start was appropriated 8,598,095,000 for FY2014. $7,782,420,000 was awarded directly to public agencies, private nonprofit and for-profit organizations, tribal governments, and school systems to operate Head Start programs in local communities. $203,322,000 was directed to T/TA to improve the quality of services provided by grantees. Half that amount was awarded directly to grantees to be used for local T/TA, and the other half funded the national system. More details around OHS funding can be found in the FY2014 Fact Sheet.
OHS has 12 Regional Offices that support the administration of grants, oversight, and T/TA. These offices are located in Boston, MA; New York, NY; Philadelphia, PA; Atlanta, GA; Chicago, IL; Kansas City, MO; Dallas, TX; Denver, CO; San Francisco, CA; and Seattle, WA. The Regional Offices for American Indian and Alaska Native (AIAN) and Migrant and Seasonal Head Start (MSHS) programs are located in Washington,
The priorities of OHS are to:
Ensure that all programs have school readiness goals around the five essential domains for all children birth to 5 in all program options.
Support partnerships between Head Start and Early Head Start, child care, early care and education systems, schools, and communities to improve continuity for children and families across learning, health, and other community settings.
Promote high-quality teaching practices, including effective teacher-child interactions.
In January of 1964, President Lyndon B. Johnson declared The War on Poverty in his State of the Union speech. Shortly thereafter, Sargent Shriver took the lead in assembling a panel of experts to develop a comprehensive child development program that would help communities meet the needs of disadvantaged preschool children. Among these experts were Dr. Robert Cooke, a pediatrician at John Hopkins University, and Dr. Edward Zigler, a professor of psychology and director of the Child Study Center at Yale University.
Part of the government's thinking on poverty was influenced by new research on the effects of poverty, as well as on the impacts of education. This research indicated an obligation to help disadvantaged groups, compensating for inequality in social or economic conditions. Head Start was designed to help break the cycle of poverty, providing preschool children of low-income families with a comprehensive program to meet their emotional, social, health, nutritional and psychological needs. A key tenet of the program established that it be culturally responsive to the communities served, and that the communities have an investment in its success through the contribution of volunteer hours and other donations as nonfederal share.
In the summers of 1965 and 1966, the Office of Economic Opportunity launched an eight-week Project Head Start. In 1969, under the Nixon administration, Head Start was transferred from the Office of Economic Opportunity to the Office of Child Development in the U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare. Dr. Edward Zigler, who had served on the planning committee to launch Project Head Start, was appointed Director of the Office of Child Development. In 1977, under the Carter administration, Head Start began bilingual and bicultural programs in about 21 states. Seven years later, in October 1984 under the Reagan administration, Head Start's grant budget exceeded $1 billion. In September of 1995, under the Clinton administration, the first Early Head Start grants were given and in October of 1998, Head Start was reauthorized to expand to full-day and full-year services.
Head Start was most recently reauthorized again in 2007, under the George W. Bush administration, with several provisions to strengthen Head Start quality. These include alignment of Head Start school readiness goals with state early learning standards, higher qualifications for the Head Start teaching workforce, State Advisory Councils on Early Care and Education in every state, and increased program monitoring, including a review of child outcomes and annual financial audits. The Head Start training and technical assistance system was redesigned to support programs through six National Centers and a state-based system to ensure success.
The statute also included a provision that regulations be promulgated to move programs from an indefinite project period to a five-year grant cycle. Programs would be required to demonstrate they are of high quality or a competitive grant opportunity would be made available within the community. In 2009, under the Obama administration, the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act added more than 64,000 slots for Early Head Start and Head Start programs.
Head Start has served more than 30 million children since 1965, growing from an eight-week demonstration project to include full day/year services and many program options. Currently, Head Start is administered by the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) in the Department of Health and Human Services. Head Start serves over a million children and their families each year in urban and rural areas in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the U.S. territories, including American Indian, Alaskan Native and Migrant/Seasonal communities.
Since 1965, Head Start has served millions of children and families by promoting school readiness, by providing comprehensive services, and by emphasizing the role of parents as their child's first and most important teacher. These are the stories of how Head Start has impacted the lives of the children, parents, neighbors, and staff that have been involved in its programs.
"By teaching those crucial skills, programs like Head Start level what is otherwise an uneven playing field, while at the same time providing students with the head start they need not just to compete but to win." Dr. George Henson, former Head Start student
"Jack be nimble. Jack be quick. Jack jump over the candlestick."
I can remember reciting that nursery rhyme as if it were yesterday. It was the summer of 1965, and I was a rambunctious 4-year-old. Daddy had just been discharged after a career in the Army, and he moved Mama and us kids—three boys and two girls—from La Rochelle, France to Ralston, OK, a tiny town that lay along the Arkansas River in Pawnee County.
I arrived in Ralston speaking French and English but not knowing my ABCs. Because I was supposed to start kindergarten in the fall, Mama was worried that I would be behind the other children, so she considered delaying kindergarten for a year so I could catch up. Then someone told her about a new program called Head Start.
I, of course, didn't know what Head Start was. I just knew that I would be going to school. I don't remember everything we did—50 years is a long time ago—but I do remember how much fun I had coloring, pasting, singing songs, counting, and, of course, learning my ABCs. During these "fun" activities, unbeknownst to us, we were learning valuable social, cognitive, and linguistic skills.
At the end of the eight weeks, there was to be a graduation program, in which I would recite "Jack Be Nimble" before jumping over an unlit candlestick. My sister Gwen, who was a teacher's aide, worked with me at home, sometimes past my bedtime, teaching me my lines. The recitation of that nursery rhyme may seem insignificant, but that moment represented the beginning of what would become my lifelong relationship with literature, which I now teach and translate.
After finishing Head Start, ABCs firmly learned, I was ready to conquer kindergarten. Because Daddy was always looking for a better job, we moved a lot throughout elementary school, sometimes twice during the school year. The anxiety of adjusting to a new school, to new classmates, and to a new curriculum was eased, however, by my love of learning. When I reached junior high, we finally settled in one place; and during my sophomore year in high school, my hard work and good grades caught the attention of a teacher, Mrs. Davis, who talked to me for the first time about going to college. For the next three years, she counseled me on where to apply, how to fill out the applications, and what to write in my admission essay.
During one of our counseling sessions, I mentioned I had attended Head Start. Through her, I learned that Head Start began as part of President Johnson's War on Poverty. Until then, I had never thought of us as having been poor. When you're a kid, and everyone else around you is poor, you have nothing to judge poverty by. As the youngest boy, I was used to wearing my brothers' hand-me-downs. Daddy and Mama worked hard, always putting us kids first, doing whatever was necessary so that we would at least graduate from high school, a privilege the Depression had denied them.
When I began college at 17, I was not only young for my class, I carried the additional challenge of being a first-generation college student. I was determined, however, to be the first member of my family to graduate from university. Through perseverance and determination, I graduated. Over 30 years and three degrees later, I am profoundly aware of the life-changing power of education.
As a college professor, I understand the challenges that low-income and minority students face. I also know that that success in college is determined in large part by the language and cognitive skills that are developed early in life, skills that low-income children are at a greater risk of not developing. By teaching those crucial skills, programs like Head Start level what is otherwise an uneven playing field, while at the same time providing students with the head start they need not just to compete but to win.
Just ask the boy who was nimble and quick and jumped over the candlestick in 1965 in that Head Start program in Ralston, OK.
Dr. George Henson is a senior lecturer of Spanish at the University of Texas at Dallas. In addition to teaching, Dr. Henson is a translator of four books and dozens of short stories and essays by some of Latin America's most prominent writers. His latest book, a translation of Sergio Pitol's The Art of Flight, was released in March. This story is crossposted from the ACF Family Room blog.
"I walked her (my daughter) to Head Start every morning and I went to classes to get my GED while she was there. Thank you to all the wonderful people that helped me with her, especially Mr. Tisdale." Lolita Armstrong, Head Start teacher, Michelle Michaud, former Head Start parent, Bridgeport, CT
I was a young mother in the early 1970s. With the help of Mr. Robert Grant, Mr. Tisdale, and ABCD, my daughter Shelley went to Head Start in Bridgeport, CT on Park Avenue and Fairfield Avenue. I walked her to Head Start every morning and I went to classes to get my GED while she was there. Thank you to all the wonderful people that helped me with her, especially Mr. Tisdale. My daughter went on to get a degree in sociology from Sacred Heart University and works for Bright Horizons Family Solutions. She is now 44 years old.
"I am proud to be a Heart employee and continue the legacy of knowledge Head Start planted on me." Josefina Ramos, former Head Start parent and current family support specialist, Phoenix, AZ
My name is Josefina Ramos, and I want to share my experience with how Head Start made a difference in my life and in the lives of my daughters. My daughters, Esmeralda and Jacqueline, started Head Start back in 2002 at Westside Head Start in El Paso, TX. Since then, Head Start opened many doors for us. I started going back to school thanks to Head Start support and motivation. I graduated in 2007 as a social worker. My children were successful during their school-age years. They got many awards and scholarships at Vilas Elementary school where they attended, and all thanks to the strong base they got at Head Start. Today, Jacqueline and Esmeralda are in college. Esmeralda traveled around the world with the forensic program she was part of, and Jacqueline is enrolled at ASU majoring in business administration. I was a parent of Head Start, and now I am a Head Start staff. I started working at Head Start in March 2009. I am proud to be a Heart employee and continue the legacy of knowledge Head Start planted on me. Head Start made a difference in my life and I want to make the difference in the lives of the families I serve with love and vocation for what I do, and with respect and empathy to all families.
"I love my job as the Head Start teacher here in McDowell County. I love the families and children we serve each day!" Lolita Armstrong, Head Start teacher, McDowell County Head Start, Morganton, NC
Head Start has made me what I am today—starting from 1989, when my last daughter attended the Head Start program in McDowell County. I attended with her as a parent volunteer. Under the supervision of Ms. Diane Brooks and Ms. Toni McKinney, my child's teachers, I was molded and showed the way to become the best parent and teacher I could be to my child. With tears in my eyes and now under the supervision of our Head Start director Peggy Freeman, along with other management staff, Head Start keeps me strong. I love my job as the Head Start teacher here in McDowell County. I love the families and children we serve each day! Twenty-five years with Head Start ... I thank my God!
"I can truly say, that if you invest in our young, it WILL pay off!" Frankie Caldwell, Head Start graduate, Manhattan, NY
Head Start entered my life when I was 3-5 years old, in 1973 to 1975. Not only did this program lay the foundation, and give me that "Head Start," I succeeded through high school, undergraduate school, and graduate school, where I'm currently in a doctorate program. In addition to my education success, I've given back to my community by serving as an elementary teacher, working in classrooms that many people have admitted they would stay away from regardless of the pay.
My mother also volunteered with Head Start, until staff members persuaded her to join their team. She served with Head Start from 1973 to 1977, and participated in many meetings around New York and other states. To this day, her plaque serves as a reminder that her time with Head Start was valuable and appreciated! Even to this day, I keep in contact with my Head Start teacher who is retired, but very active in the Harlem area of New York City.
As you can see, I truly respect all this organization has given to my family and me. Currently, my goal is to continue with my education; search for a position with Head Start, where I can work for this extremely important organization; and return my service to a program that laid that solid foundation 42 years ago. I can truly say, that if you invest in our young, it WILL pay off!
"I never would have thought that I would get a chance to work with such an amazing role model who taught me to become the person I am today." Bridgette Santy, Head Start teacher, Berlin, NH
This year, I began teaching at Berlin, NH Head Start. The best part is that I am working side-by-side in the same classroom with my own Head Start teacher from 18 years ago! I never would have thought that I would get a chance to work with such an amazing role model who taught me to become the person I am today. I realize that we both have the same mindset in the classroom and that makes for the best classroom memories ever! This picture is from a 1997/1998 family conference/home visit. Now we are working together 18 years later, in the same building where I first attended!
"I found it a pleasure to work in Head Start. I learned as the students learned. The job provided me with my first experience in developing and using leadership skills with others." Annette Holliday Fulton Cornish, retired Head Start teacher, director, and administrator, New Castle DE
I am one of Delaware's first Head Start teachers. I worked in the first Head Start six-week pilot program in Wilmington, DE, in 1965 during the summer. I then became head teacher in the six-month program located in one room at an elementary school in January 1966. I then went on to attend the first Head Start Training Program for head teachers, during the summer of 1966, at Hood College in Fredrick, MD.
I became director of the first full year Head Start program located in the Marshallton Elementary School in Wilmington, DE, in September 1966 to June 1967. There, I had three classrooms and a secretary. Each class room had a teacher and one aid with 21 students.
I am now a retired educator of 42 years—working with other people's children and giving them much tough love. This all started with Head Start and lasted all the way to college level, as I demonstrated the ways and means to learn, make decisions, demonstrate proper behavior at all times, and work with others. I also showed children how to show respect for themselves and others, how to follow directions, the importance of being a good listener, and how to explore and experience food for the betterment of growth. This is what my Head Starters and their parents learned. I found it a pleasure to work in Head Start. I learned as the students learned. The job provided me with my first experience in developing and using leadership skills with others. Thank you Head Start!
"I am appreciative of the school districts, but Head Start creates bonds with families the school districts will never be able to have." Christina Leary, human resources director, Tri-County Community Action Inc., Carthage, TX
As long as I can remember, the Head Start program helped my family be citizens when other Americans would give a family like mine a daily cold shoulder. You see, growing up we didn't have any running water or efficient lighting in our house. However, I can remember being in Head Start and being taught the value of learning. When I entered elementary school I was considered a gifted student. My mom had the option of allowing me to advance to the first grade, but chose to let me go through with my yearly pattern of going to the next level.
My teachers were always so giving and encouraging. I never looked at myself as being poor or not having the necessities in life, because I didn't see myself as different. Growing up in poverty was not always a bad thing. I may have worn hand me downs, but I learned to appreciate my life and the things that I could have in the future.
Being a single mom was hard. However, I didn't see Head Start as daycare but an opportunity for my son to advance because of the odds that are against him before he turns 18 years old. The dropout rates for black males are high, so whatever advancement in learning he can receive would be great. Because my son attended Head Start his reading level was above the requirement and he could read books beyond his grade level. My son is now 16 and he's probably smarter than what he needs to be. (Thanks Head Start!! "Smile").
I made a career change in 2011. I went from a Fortune 500 job to a nonprofit position—big change in career advancement and pay but my life changed. Even though I grew up on "commodity cheese" and the "famous peanut butter," I never knew what it was like on the other side. I was just a person in line trying to get some food.
Since working at Tri-County, I have learned what it means to serve the community, to operate in greatness, and to give when you have nothing left to give. We serve over 626 families and children, and I love the excitement a parent has when they see their child learning beyond their capabilities. It's like just for a moment, the feeling of poverty leaves them and they feel as if they belong in society. I am appreciative of the school districts, but Head Start creates bonds with families the school districts will never be able to have.
I started working at the Head Start Program with just a high school diploma. I was inspired to continue my education, and in 2014, I received my B.A. in organizational management. I started graduate school in November and hope to have it completed by March 2016. Who would have thought that a young girl who attended Head Start and lived in poverty with no running water would be where I am today. Now, I have water that will never run dry.
"I believe that programs such as Head Start gave my family and me the foundation to succeed in school." Irma Morales, Willowbrook School District, summer 1967
I attended Head Start from June 26, 1967 to Aug. 11, 1967 in the Willowbrook School District—the unincorporated area of Los Angeles County (Compton, CA is the closest city). I still have the certificate that I was given. It has the stamped signature of Lady Bird Johnson.
I come from a family of 10 children and I am the youngest. We moved to the Willowbrook/Compton area in 1965. I believe that programs such as Head Start gave my family and me the foundation to succeed in school. Out of the 10 of us, six have bachelor degrees, three have master's degrees, and three are military veterans. All my family are avid readers and that is why one of us was destined to become a librarian. I have a sister who is a retired kindergarten teacher and all of my family have held jobs that give back to the community. I currently am a supervisor and librarian in a public library. I support early learning and literacy practices and promote these important ideas in the library every day. In 2008, I was able to go to Washington, DC for the Reading is Fundamental (RIF) Program Excellence Honors for working with our local Head Start program, Orange Children and Parents Together (OCPT) to "Link Up for Literacy" project.
"I am a firm believer that Head Start works." Nancy Kessay, Head Start family and community partnership manager, and Sabastian Kessay, former Head Start student, Fort Apache Head Start, Whiteriver, AZ
I want to share a story about my experience with Head Start. I am a firm believer that Head Start works. My mom started with a Head Start Tribal Program in 1965. She went from classroom teacher to assistant director. I eventually ended up working for a tribal program as well where all my children attended. I was in the classroom for six years and then moved on to other opportunities in the community.
In 2000, I received my degree and moved to the Mesa, AZ area. I obtained a position with Maricopa County Head Start as a site director. Seven years later, I felt the urge to move up and became an area supervisor with the program. This past June, I moved up to the position of family and community partnership manager. I have also had eight of my 15 grandchildren attend the Head Start program. This past June, an article was done on my oldest grandson who attended two years of Head Start on the Ft. Apache Indian Reservation in Whiteriver, AZ:
"Native professional athletes are emerging across the United States, with many like Notah Begay and Shoni Schimmel adding their names to this elite group with the legendary Billy Mills. In recent years, the growth of Begay and Schimmel has ignited Native fans from tribal communities, inspiring tribal youth and bringing pride to tribal households. Emerging into this list of esteemed athletes is White Mountain Apache tribal member, Sabastian Kessay. Kessay comes from the small community of Hon-Dah, located on the Fort Apache Indian Reservation in the White Mountains of Arizona.
Coming from rural Arizona, Kessay has accomplished a great deal for a 21-year-old professional pitcher. His ultimate goal is to lead by example and pursue his dream of playing in major league baseball. Kessay stated: "We all have goals for ourselves. I am focused and train hard daily because no matter what we do professionally we have to grow. My career is not a matter of luck. It is a matter of skill and dedication. Growing myself into a professional athlete is dependent upon myself, my dedication to the sport, my dedication to perfecting my technique and my desire to continue to move forward. I am blessed that every day, I wake up and play baseball. It doesn't get any better than that. I am very proud to say that I play professional baseball, and I am honored that my experience has taken me to places I have never been before."
As an emerging athlete, Kessay hopes to not only become an inspiration to youth on the reservation, but also an inspiration to youth in rural areas. His vision is to become the spark that ignites the flame in the hearts of youth to become who they really want to become, and to demonstrate to youth that he is living proof that hard work, self-determination and focusing on dreams pays off. Coming from a rural and isolated tribal community, Kessay can relate to today's youth, knowing that he shares the same roots, same beginnings, and same struggles. Kessay says: "I hope that I bring a sense of pride to the Fort Apache Indian Reservation, and I hope that my story inspires others."
"Local businesses, corporations, churches, municipalities, school groups, and neighbors are recruited for community engagement by our tireless social services staff."Head Start Community Program of Morris County, Inc., NJ
In a community collaboration spanning more than a decade, our local Head Start program has nurtured altruistic partnerships with businesses, service providers, and nonprofit organizations to create a wonderful tradition of giving for our children and families. Head Start Community Program of Morris County, a thriving nonprofit entering its 50th year as a Head Start grantee, is located in Dover, NJ.
Dover is a vibrant but impoverished Latino neighborhood nestled in the heart of one of the country's most affluent counties. The quality-of-life issues faced by the families we serve—predominantly Hispanic immigrants—are especially complex due to the local high-cost of housing and related services in the immediate area. Our program is able to address many of our families' needs and service gaps through supportive, longstanding community partnerships.
For the families we serve, the December–January holiday season is a time of rich cultural celebrations and family traditions. However, this time of year is often very difficult for the community's neediest and most vulnerable families. The staff of our family and community partnerships department has developed a program to ensure that each child served by our organization is granted a specific wish to commemorate the spirit of the holiday season. Local businesses, corporations, churches, municipalities, school groups, and neighbors are recruited for community engagement by our tireless social services staff. Year after year, our neighbors answer the call, enthusiastically providing the children and families with a wealth of gifts, food and clothing for the winter holiday season.
This past December, Head Start Community Program of Morris County's Adopt-a-Family initiative brought joy to 72 families. Our Social Services staff coordinated the needs of each family, supplementing federal resources with local community donations to make dreams come true. Our neediest families received children's toys, clothing, and household items, in addition to gift cards for supermarkets and department stores. Our dedicated program staff cheerfully hauled and carried mountains of donated items to their destinations. Community and corporate volunteers also pitched in. The entire neighborhood came together to meet the needs of Head Start children and their families. As we celebrate Head Start's 50th anniversary, we are pleased to share the story of our tradition of holiday partnerships that have anchored the community and engaged supporters from the corporate, nonprofit, and public sectors—united as one, to serve the area's most vulnerable children and families.
"I strongly believe that Head Start does make a positive impact on families-forever." Myrna Martorell, disabilities coordinator, Bronx, NY
I was a Head Start parent, 33 years ago, when my youngest child attended Head Start. My life changed; I had just entered college and my goal was to be a physical therapist. One day a staff member invited me to attend a 20-week parenting workshop. What I learned was that Head Start is a program that educated my child, but also the family. I never would have thought that attending this workshop would change my whole life. The training helped me to be a better parent of my three daughters.
I continued college until one day I was told that an assistant teacher opening was available; I applied to become an assistant teacher, then head teacher, and now I am a disabilities coordinator. I have been on staff for Head Start for 27 Years. I strongly believe that Head Start does make a positive impact on families-forever. Thank you, Head Start!
"I am proud to be a part of our children's education. I will continue to strive in providing the best care for our young children." Steve "Gary" Liwanag, San Luis Obispo, CA
Steve "Gary" Liwanag has worked at the Community Action Partnership of San Luis Obispo County Head Start program since 1977. He wrote, "I began as an assistant in 1977. I soon became a teacher, followed by center supervisor. I have experienced many changes in my 37 years of employment with the program. Some of those changes have been good and some very challenging. I have always kept an inner enthusiasm, as each year begins, for myself, staff, parents and children. I have always enjoyed my employment with the agency that provides the Head Start program for our community and children. I am proud to be a part of our children's education. I will continue to strive in providing the best care for our young children."
Gary even met his wife at Head Start when they were both center supervisors. Jeannie Liwanag shared that Gary "enjoys his role as much today as the day he began. He serves as a valuable male role model for students, families, and community. He enjoys new challenges each year, mentoring staff, and promoting team work. I'm so proud of him and his infinite energy toward the program!"
"I truly believe all partnerships are important, but the one we have with our families is the one that will have a lasting positive effect on our community." Corina Spence, onsite Head Start manager, Moab, UT
My name is Corina and I started out as a Head Start parent. I was a waitress and never even thought of becoming a teacher. As a young adult, I had started nursing school and was told that because I had epilepsy I would never have a career-and I believed that. But, I had teachers and leaders and the parent policy council say to me, "hey, you and your family are important and there is no reason you can't volunteer." So, I was in that classroom daily because they made me feel like I mattered and that my child would be a success because parents and Head Start are partners. They took my family by the hand and walked us step by step through what my child and family needed and that's when Head Start stole my heart. I became a Head Start teacher. I who had been told by a college professor that I could never have a career. My child learned to love himself and others no matter who they were or where they came from. He became a leader and someone to be looked up to by his peers. He was class president; played every sport possible; was in every class play; and on the debate team. He even received a scholarship for college because of his ability to see and adjust to such a diverse world he was growing up in.
The first time I had heard that parents are partners was at Head Start. Wow! I, for the first time felt important, felt like I had nothing to be ashamed of and nothing to hide! That was in October 1994; now, it is February 2015 and I am the onsite manager in Moab, UT, such a diverse and unique community. Here, I share the privilege of being a Head Start grandma, as my older son married into a family with two children who were Head Start kids, and he and his wife were Early Head Start parents and are now Head Start parents. They have had the privilege of many trainings and parenting classes to help them on the road of parenting, and they work very hard to be parents as partners in Head Start. They work hard in our community and are not afraid to speak up for their family and make good choices for their children and this is because they have had Head Start as a partner to reach out and say, "hey, let's work together and make our community a better place."
Now, I see such progress in my grandchildren because Head Start took the time to work with them as a family to say, "hey, you matter and you can make a difference." Head Start has many community partnerships in Moab and each and every one of them plays an important role. However, I believe the most important partnership we have is the partnership we have with our parents. Parents have so much to offer and sometimes we forget to think about parents when we think about partnerships. When most of us hear partnership, our first thought goes to the school district, Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS), family support center, or food bank; I could go on and on but I won't. I truly believe all partnerships are important, but the one we have with our families is the one that will have a lasting positive effect on our community.
"Now, I am receiving calls from families that I have inspired, as they experience Head Start." Gwendolyn Wilson, O.C.E.A.N., Inc., Toms River, NJ
I am a 1979 Head Start graduate. I always told myself: "Gwen, when you grow up you are going to be a teacher." I never considered the educational perspective of this adventure that I desired; but, the whole twist of this is that, today I am a family partner/social worker.
When hardship struck and the economy was falling hard on working families like mine, I had no choice but to go to college in 2009. I was inspired to pursue a degree in social work, because of my compassion for community activities, volunteering, and being a resource parent for foster children and families. Before receiving my degree, my career advisor whispered some thoughts that put me on the path toward where I would be employed. I had in mind two places that would be my place of employment; so, after receiving my degree, I took the first journey to Head Start. I embraced my education, professionalism, positive attitude, and experience to pursue my passion for Head Start employment.
To make a long story short, I was in "awe" upon receiving the official phone call that I was accepted as an employee at a Head Start school. At that program, I was passionate that we could provide school readiness, family engagement, and a breath of inspiration that all things could be accomplished. Now, I am receiving calls from families that I have inspired, as they experience Head Start. For example, a mom from one of my families, who is a single parent with three children, called the other day to tell me "thank you" for the resources, advocacy, empowerment, and encouragement. She is now a licensed hair stylist who has moved to Georgia to pursue her career. I have been employed at Head Start for almost three years, and if these are the rewards to reap-I'll keep them.
"Tracey truly believes that what we do each day not only elevates families, but creates a stronger community for the children and families we serve." Karen Crow, Crawfordsville, IN
Karen Crow, a Head Start teacher at Montgomery County Head Start wrote to tell us "our facilitator, Tracey Stone, works with over 50 families and always has the 'mission' in mind. Tracey truly believes that what we do each day not only elevates families, but creates a stronger community for the children and families we serve. She is the glue that holds our staff and Head Start center together and keeps us focused. Her love of children is evident and a joy to see!"
"My experience in Head Start helped shape who I am today. Head Start helped provide a solid foundation for me." Katrina Letner, Sevierville, TN
I was a Head Start child in 1986, in the hills of Tennessee-Sevierville to be exact, the home town of Dolly Pardon's "Dolly Wood." We lived on the meager wages my dad made playing music on the weekends and cleaning pools as his daytime job. My mom worked as a receptionist at a hotel. I am not sure how they found out about Head Start, but I am so glad that they did. I have fond memories of my time in Head Start. I remember the bus rides and practicing evacuation drills. I remember the hearing screening performed in a small little room I had not been in before. I can still picture the classroom layout, the writing center, the tables where we ate lunch and made art, and the dramatic play area. There, I learned to count to one hundred, to begin to write my name-first with stencils, then on my own. My "N" was often backwards. More importantly, I learned to make friends, get along with others, and follow classroom rules and expectations. I learned I could do lots of things if I tried.
At the end of the year, our parents came to a celebration. Together, the children, families, and staff planted a tree near our playground. Throughout my life, I have often wondered how big that tree is now. As an adult, I realize now that the tree we planted almost 30 years ago is symbolic of my experience in Head Start. Like that tree, I started out small and vulnerable in a big world. Head Start tended to my roots and supported my parents in making sure I flourished. My experience in Head Start helped shape who I am today. Head Start helped provide a solid foundation for me. Head Start built me up. My time there instilled in me a love of learning. Remember, as you go through each day, teachers and Head Start staff, that each child that comes through our doors is like a sapling, small and vulnerable to the big world around them. We help to nurture them, build them up, prepare them for success in school and in life; we tend to their roots, their families. The services we provide make a difference every day in the lives of our most vulnerable children.
"I cannot speak enough about the benefits of Head Start. I truly believe it saves lives." Ed Casias, Gospel Hall Head Start in Denver, CO from 1969-1970.
I don't know how or why my mother signed us up for Head Start, but I think it was one of the best decisions she ever made for us. My father dropped out of school in the 9th grade to support his younger siblings. He is a Korean War Veteran and I believe he realized education was the way for us to avoid the back-breaking labor that he was doing to support his family. My mother is a high school graduate and was a very good student, but she did not have the option of college. She married my father at a young age and started a family; however, I believe she knew we had great potential and wanted to give us every opportunity to better our lives.
Of the eight children in my family, four of us attended Head Start. I was the first, followed by my sister Dawn, my brother Sam, and my brother Luke. Of the four children in my family that attended Head Start, all four graduated from high school, three graduated from college, and two obtained post-graduate degrees. Of the four that did not attend Head Start, three graduated from high school and one obtained a college degree.
I still remember walking into Gospel Hall for Head Start. It was located in an old church. The assembly room had been cleared and we sat on a wooden floor for most of the class. The church had a playground that we would use for outdoor activity time. The church is still there, and when I dropped in with my son a year ago, there was a group of kids present in the assembly room. The floor had been carpeted, but nothing else had changed. I don't know if the group was of Head Start kids, but I did explain to the adult that I was showing my pre-school aged son where I had attended pre-school.
When I started Head Start, it was my first experience away from my family. One of my aunts was my teacher and it's a good thing she was, because I did not know that my name was "Edward." All of us kids have family nicknames that are still used to this day. As I had never been called "Ed" or "Edward" before, I did not know who people were talking to when I was addressed as "Edward." Thankfully, my aunt was there and could call me by my nickname. I have to credit Head Start for teaching me my name. I remember learning to count in Head Start and being rewarded for reaching a certain number by receiving M&Ms. I truly believe Head Start provided me with the foundation for all of my learning tools and educational ambitions.
By way of side note, I grew up with a group of six friends. Some of them attended Head Start and some did not. Of the six friends, three attended Head Start with me and three did not. The three that attended Head Start graduated from high school. Of the three that did not attend Head Start, one committed suicide and two served prison sentences. None of them graduated from high school. I cannot say that Head Start would have saved them, but I believe it might have helped.
I graduated from Manual High School in 1983. I attended and graduated from Colorado College, a highly ranked liberal arts college, in 1987. I attended Colorado College on an academic scholarship. After obtaining my Bachelor of Arts degree in business and economics, I applied to various law schools. Ultimately, I attended Ohio State University College of Law and obtained my Juris Doctor in 1990. After graduating law school, I worked for a prestigious law firm in Denver for 18 months before leaving private practice to become a state prosecutor. I was a state prosecutor for 10 years, ultimately reaching the level of assistant district attorney for the 5th judicial district of Colorado. I was the number two prosecutor in the district, just below the elected district attorney. In September of 2000, I was appointed by Governor Bill Owens to the Summit County Court bench in Breckenridge, CO. I have been the county court judge since that date.
I cannot speak enough about the benefits of Head Start. I truly believe it saves lives. May it continue to be the pathway to success for all children who need the services it provides. If there is any way I can help this wonderful program, all it has to do is ask.