In this day and age when our government is broken, mired in the molasses of partisan bickering and gamesmanship, it’s a comfort to know there are some government programs that actually work — that accomplish goals and help people.
And this program, with its origins in a Democratic White House, has been around for nearly 50 years.
We’re talking about Head Start, a social program designed with the best intentions, that over the years has evolved but not strayed so far from its original duty as to become one more layer of wasteful bureaucracy.
Wonderful news out of Congressman Larry Kissell’s office this week with the announcement that Union County Community Action, Inc. (UCCA) will receive a $5,269,005 grant for its Head Start and Early Head Start programs that serve children in Union, Anson and Richmond counties.
“Our program focuses on school readiness and family engagement, which are integral parts of child development,” said Jenny R. McGuirt, UCCA executive director. “The appropriation of these funds will allow UCCA to continue to deliver high quality services to children and families in Richmond County.”
UCCA offers programs to help educate children and place them on a path to success. The UCCA Head Start Program currently serves 36 infants and toddlers, and 122 preschool age children in Richmond County. UCCA also collaborates with Richmond County Schools to operate NC Pre-K classrooms.
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.
In January 1964, President Lyndon B. Johnson declared “The War on Poverty” in his State of the Union speech. That year, working as part of the Johnson administration, 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. That led to the Office of Economic Opportunity launching an eight-week “Project Head Start” in the summers of 1965 and 1966.
The program helps feed youngsters’ stomachs and minds, and gets them ready for the reality of structured classroom learning that lies ahead.
And there is an abundance of evidence that Head Start is a valuable program with results. Just listen to Melinda Keever of Rockingham, who told us how she watched her granddaughter Heaven LeGrand make progress in school because of Head Start.
“I think it’s a great thing,” said Keever. “I think it helped my granddaughter a lot. It prepared her for kindergarten, maturity-wise and in interacting with other children. She was prepared for learning, listening to authority figures, and it helped her get into the school setting.”
Head Start has served nearly 30 million children since 1965, growing from that eight-week demonstration project to include full day/year services and many program options. Head Start serves more than 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.
Head Start continues to deliver the goods, and the goods are good indeed — full bellies, busy hands and challenged minds.