Head Start turns 50

Published 10:29 am Saturday, October 17, 2015

ORANGE — Students at North Early Learning Center in Orange enjoyed a block party celebrating 50 years of Head Start as part of a national party coordinated with national Office of Head Start (OHS) on Wednesday.

Children participated in sack races, face painting, ABC bowling, Head Start Stomp and Texas Number Toss during the celebrations.

President Lyndon B. Johnson declared The War on Poverty in his State of the Union speech January 1964.

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, according to the official website for Head Start. 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 September of 1995 the first Early Head Start grants were given.  In October of 1998, Head Start was reauthorized to expand to full-day and full-year services.

Head Start has served over 32 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.

North Early Learning Center served 269 students during the 2013-2014 school year according to an annual report.

The mission of North Early Learning Center is to empower all families in school readiness, focusing on the areas of socialization, health, and academics. With mutual respect and a collaborative effort, children and families become self-reliant, productive members of our community.

North’s 3 and 4 year olds scored 80-percent and above on eight out of 10 school readiness goals.