Head Start Program turning 50 years old

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The Head Start program turns 50 this year, and since the summer of 1965, it has been a “premier model for providing the whole child an opportunity for success in school and in life,” according to National Head Start Association.

In her report at Tuesday’s Webster Parish Police Jury meeting, Wanda Finley, touted the program’s success in Webster and Claiborne parishes, saying they have served more than 365 children in both parishes.

“In serving these children, we have provided more than 100 percent in services to meet the needs of these babies,” she said. “What does that say? We get an A-plus in what we’re doing as far as our goals, but in celebrating our 50 years, we’re going through the process of actually setting strategies to make the public aware of what Head Start does for the community.”

She thanked the jurors who have been involved in working the program.

In light of that, Finley says they are working with their graduates to transition from preschool to public school. Head Start is helping parents with preparing documentation needed to enroll, such as a birth certificate, utility bills accepted by schools and others.

“In setting those strategies, we work with the local educational agencies, which is the Webster and Claiborne Parish school boards,” she said. “We take those graduates on field trips so they become familiar with their environment, the schools they will be attending. This helps to have a smooth transition for the children as well as the families, because we also work with personnel at those various schools to make sure the needed documentation for enrollment is provided.”

Finley says interagency agreements in place allow the public agencies to interact in this manner to provide these services.

“We’re really working at a fast pace right now,” she said. “We’re changing some strategies in Head Start. We’re doing some wonderful things to provide these services to meet the needs of the children and families in our communities.”

NHSA reports some 31 million children have benefitted from Head Start’s services.

The association touts benefits to local children in that studies show increased achievement test scores and higher graduation rates.

“Likewise, findings from the EHS Impact Study show that EHS children on average had a higher cognitive development score than their control group,” according to the report. “EHS children demonstrated a higher level of social-emotional development than their control group.”

Other benefits include economic, health and law enforcement benefits, the report indicates.

For more information, call Webster Head Start at 371-1101.

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