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What is Head Start?

Head Start is a federal program that promotes the school readiness of children ages birth to five from low-income families by enhancing their cognitive, social, and emotional development. Muskingum County Head Start serves children ages three to five years of age.

Head Start programs provide a learning environment that supports children's growth in the following domains: language and literacy; cognition and general knowledge; physical development and health; social and emotional development; and approaches to learning.

Head Start programs provide comprehensive services to enrolled children and their families, which include health, nutrition, social, and other services determined to be necessary by family needs assessments, in addition to education and cognitive development services. Head Start services are designed to be responsive to each child and family's ethnic, cultural, and linguistic heritage.

For more information on Head Start you may want to visit these websites by clicking on the name of the organization below:

Early Childhood Learning and Knowledge Center -- eclkc.ohs.acf.hhs.gov

Ohio Head Start Association

National Head Start Association

Please read the Times Recorder front page article listed below dated January 19, 2014, by Anna Rumer.

Times Recorder - Zanesville, Ohio

Author: Rumer, Anna

Date: Jan 19, 2014

Start Page: 1

Section: A

The Extra Step

ZANESVILLE -- Sending a child to preschool can affect his or her long-term performance and helps in early socialization.

In Ohio, many parents shell out $100 to $200 per month to help their children get ahead, according to Child Care Resources Inc. For the families in Muskingum County that can't spare the money, Head Start is there.

Head Start was founded in 1965 as part of President Lyndon B. Johnson's Great Society Campaign as a summer school intended to help low-income children transition to elementary school.

The National Head Start Association now serves more than 1 million children, 265 of them in Muskingum County.

For Zanesville native Keely Poulton, 26, Head Start has changed the future of her children dramatically. She first experienced the services of Head Start when she went to preschool there as a child, and became reinvested when her first child, Karrah, now 6, became eligible for preschool. Now that her daughter has graduated, she still finds herself at Head Start with her son, Danyen, 4. She said she couldn't be happier with the results.

"This is the best program," Poulton said. "They make you feel like family."

Getting a Head Start

Part of the reason Poulton is so happy with the service Head Start provides is because of the results she has seen.

According to Poulton, when her daughter entered Head Start, she was having trouble recognizing letters and numbers and struggling to write her own name. After she had graduated from the program, she was able to count to 50 and write her own name, phone number and address. She now is seeing this same progress in her son.

"I notice a difference with how my daughter is excelling, and now my son," she said. "They don't move on until every child gets it, and that's how it should be."

Poulton said she is pleased with Head Start in the classroom, but she said she also appreciates the help that it provides in the home, from parenting assistance to personal advice. When Poulton was having a problem with her son, Head Start helped her to develop a system of rules that would solve the problem at home.

"When it comes to caring for your kids, the advice is great ... and with personal things," she said. "They don't make you feel stupid. There are no stupid questions."

Poulton encouraged all parents to invest in a preschool program for their children, saying, "If any parent is doubtful about preschool, they should come talk to these ladies."

Parent involvement such as Poulton's is what Head Start is aiming for.

"They're our first educators for these children," said Carolyn Dukes, parent and family engagement manager.

Teachers also visit the children at their homes one day a month to help parents continue their children's learning.

"We're taking the extra step to involve them," Dukes said.

She speculated that the difficulty in getting parents involved is partially because of transportation issues and work.

Medical help also is given to enrolled children. According to the 2012-13 Child Care Resources Inc./Muskingum County Head Start annual report, 82 percent of children enrolled in the county Head Start program received a dental exam and 89 percent received a medical exam. Help also is given to children with early disability diagnoses.

Executive Director Jeri Johnson joined Head Start in 1989 after becoming involved with her own son, a child with multiple disabilities.

"(Head Start) is in my blood," Johnson said.

When Johnson started at the county Head Start, only 80 children were being served and parent volunteers were the main source of help. At one point in the 1990s, which Johnson fondly describes as "the good years," it had 400 children enrolled.

Today, the local program employs certified teachers and serves 265 children. There might be 185 more students being served than in 1989, but the number of children Head Start can teach is down from past years. The local program was able to teach 20 fewer children this year compared with last year because of sequestration and staff cuts.

The biggest challenge Head Start has faced is transportation. At only 3.41 percent of the 2012 budget, it's not as much the expense of the buses but the difficulty in designing the routes. The buses drop individual students off at their homes, not at a bus stop. That, plus the addition and removal of stops throughout the year, makes for complicated routes.

Although Head Start tries to serve as many families as they can, there are always some that get left behind. The county organization has a waiting list of 30 children. While it has been higher in the past, Johnson wants to cut the list down further.

"Thirty is still a lot to not be served," she said.

To help the families still on the list, the county program has partnered with the Muskingum Valley Education Service Center to take 20 children into its care and with Mideast Career and Technology Center's Children's Center to take 15 children.

However, Johnson noted that, even with referrals, some families choose to stay on the waiting list because Head Start is one of the few free preschools in Muskingum County.

Moving forward

In an attempt to further serve the families and children who depend on it, the county Head Start program recently moved classes into newly renovated buildings. After more than four years of looking for government grant money, it was able to use money leftover from a CCRI grant, along with matched money, to renovate two classroom buildings. After eight months of construction, classes were able to start full time in the new buildings in October.

As the paint dries on the new buildings, Johnson is already looking forward. In the future, she would like to expand the program to accept children ages newborn to 5.

"It would help us keep in the loop with families," Dukes said.

To accomplish that, more funding and assistance would be needed. Johnson encourages community members to get involved as volunteers and encourages parents to get involved with their children's learning.

Johnson and Dukes think preschool is a necessary step for children to achieve the highest success. Johnson has hope for the families involved with Head Start, saying that, while success may be found in school, it starts in the family.

"I do see a lot in parents and families that we serve: possibilities and opportunity," Johnson said.

arumer@gannett.com

740-450-6758

Twitter: AnnaRumerZTR

More online

Enrollment and volunteer information can be found at ccri.org.

To donate to Head Start, visit nhsa.org/get_involved/donate.

2012 fiscal report

The National Head Start Association received $286,668,880 in federal funding in 2012. Of that, $1,919,974 went to Muskingum County Head Start, in addition to:

$76,595.70 from the U.S. Department of Agriculture;

$12,500 from Step Up to Quality; and

$505,175.76 from private in-kind donations.

That resulted in a total of $2,514,245.46.

Reproduced with permission of the copyright owner. Further reproduction or distribution is prohibited without permission.

Abstract (Document Summary)

According to Poulton, when her daughter entered Head Start, she was having trouble recognizing letters and numbers and struggling to write her own name. According to the 2012-13 Child Care Resources Inc./Muskingum County Head Start annual report, 82 percent of children enrolled in the county Head Start program received a dental exam and 89 percent received a medical exam.

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