Head Start Community Partnerships Spurs Community Action

Sarah Merrill

Did you know that the Head Start program was first administered under the Office of Economic Opportunity (OEO) in Washington, DC in 1965? OEO was the agency responsible for administering most of the War on Poverty programs, including Volunteers in Service to America (VISTA), Job Corps, Community Action Partnership, and Head Start. These programs were originally created as part of President Lyndon B. Johnson's "Great Society" legislative agenda.

Quiz: Who served as OEO's first director?

  1. Jules Sugarman
  2. Sargent Shriver
  3. Edward Zigler
  4. Robert Cooke

Select to see quiz answer

In January of 1964, President Lyndon B. Johnson declared The War on Poverty in his State of the Union speech. Shortly thereafter, Sargent Shriver, as director of the Office of Economic Opportunity 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. Jules Sugarman served as the executive director of the Head Start Planning Committee and Sargent Shriver's associate director of the emerging national Head Start program.

Did you know that empowering communities was part of the efforts on the War on Poverty? The Head Start cornerstones of having both local community partners and family members deeply involved in the decision-making processes also are principals for community action. Sharing power with community and family members is an important aspect of Head Start. Sargent Shriver said this about community action:

For the first time in the history of this country, poor people actually have a place and a way in which to express themselves. That's community action…

We've created life at the community level. When you've got life, you've got movement ... You've got action. That's what we want.

—Sargent Shriver quotes from Newsreel; viewed on American Idealist: The Story of Sargent Shriver, 2008, Chicago Video Project

Your work in empowering communities and families to be actively engaged in the development and learning of their children builds a strong future. You continue the legacy of Head Start when you help communities and families fulfill their hope and dreams of making a better life for their youngest. Because of your work, we've seen communities rally with Head Start soon after natural disasters, such as Hurricane Katrina and Super Storm Sandy, to make sure the children and families had a safe haven.

Want to learn more about Head Start and its impact on communities and families? Watch these videos:

Sarah Merrill is an Infant Toddler Program Specialist for the Office of Head Start.

Head Start Community Partnerships Spurs Community Action. HHS/ACF/OHS. 2015. English.

Last Reviewed: February 2015

Last Updated: February 11, 2015