Published 10:43 am Wednesday, October 23, 2019

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October is known as Head Start Awareness Month and the Andalusia Head Start made sure that its students knew by holding a balloon release.

“Head start programs promote school readiness for children up to five years old from low-income families by working with them and teaching at their own pace,” ERSEA coordinator Kimanisha Trawick said. “During Head Start Awareness Month, we celebrate all the work these programs have done for families and children in our communities.”

President Ronald Reagan proclaimed October as Head Start Awareness Month on Oct. 22, 1982. However, the Head Start program itself was created by President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1965, to provide comprehensive health, nutrition and educational opportunities for children and families across the U.S.

The Andalusia Head Start program is a part of the Southeast Alabama Regional Planning and Development Commission, which was created in 1969 under legislation passed by the Alabama State Legislature. The commission is administered and governed by a group of 35 individuals from the seven-member counties. These individuals act as liaisons for the citizens in their counties. The needs of the citizens are given to the SEARP&DC and goals are established.

Head Start itself is a federally funded child development program providing services to three to five-year-old children of low-income families. Enrollment priority is given to children from families meeting the federal poverty guidelines. Head Start actively recruits and enrolls children with disabilities and is committed to providing individualized services for the total inclusion of children with professionally diagnosed disabilities. The staff in partnership with the parents, local agencies and other community resource providers offer comprehensive services in the Division of Early Childhood Development and Health Serves and the Division of Family and Community Partnerships. The services Head Starts provide are:

• Provided leadership to improve early childhood education.

• The Head Start concept of early childhood education, which is a comprehensive program designed to meet the emotional, social, health, nutritional and psychological needs of children from low-income families.

• Provide children with health problems and lack of self-confidence the opportunity to enter public school with a “head start” willing and able to learn.

• Provides the necessary “bridge of transition” to public school.

“Parent involvement is an essential part of every Head Start Program in providing assistance in program planning classroom activities, committee activities and program governance through policy council activities,” Trawick said. “Parents are encouraged to become involved in every part of Head Start. Parents are given the opportunity to participate in training, workshops and attend conferences. Many parents have later become employees of the Head Start program.”

The educational component at Head Start is designed to provide a learning environment to enhance social, physical, intellectual and emotional development that is consistent with the child’s age.

“An individualized approach is taken toward assessing children’s needs and providing a daily lesson plan that responds to those needs,” Trawick said. “This approach is respectful of our multi-cultural heritage. Parents are considered partners in their child’s Head Start experience and are encouraged to be an integral part of their child’s education. On behalf of our Head Start Centers in Andalusia, Eufaula, Florala, Geneva, Headland and Opp, we would like to thank our management staff in the central office located in Dothan, Ala, including Searcy Rushing (head start director,) Jackie Daniels (assistant head start director/education manager,) Stephanie Dawsey (family and community services manager) and Patricia Noble (health and nutrition/disability manager.)