Head Start gets jump on 40th birthday celebration

Published 12:00 am Thursday, December 29, 2005

Head Start programs have grown to be 40 years old by nurturing the young.

Part of the national agency that has helped more than 22 million pre-school age children and their families since its inception in 1965, the Ironton-Lawrence County Community Action Organization’s Head Start kicked off the celebration Monday with a special guest.

Ironton Mayor John Elam proclaimed the day “Head Start Day” in the city by reading a proclamation. But it was Elam’s second item on the mayor’s reading list that had the youth all smiles.

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Elam read the children’s book “Cat Colors,” a familiar selection that was greeted with smiles and giggles and even a call for an encore.

“You can witness (the value of the program) right here in this room full of children,” Elam said. “You have dedicated workers teaching them every day. This provides services that are educational and pre-educational. Plus, the kids are all as cute as bugs too.”

The county’s Head Start programs serve more than 800 families and provides a wide range of services for children up to the age of 5. Locally, Head Start will celebrate in a variety ways before it all culminates in May.

“We just have lots and lots of different things we will be doing,” said Sharon K. Daniels, interim director. Activities will include literacy initiatives, socialization programs, Family Fun Days, Week of the Young Child events, grandparents’ day and more.

“(The program) has been absolutely fantastic. It is so exciting to know Head Start has been around in this county and served so many low-income children.”

Daniels attributed much of the program’s success to its concept of being a comprehensive child service that provides nutrition, mental health, health, education and dental services for the children.

But perhaps the best testament to Head Start’s success is the smiles on their faces and laughter that echoes through the halls.

“I like to play here,” 5-year-old Paige Preston said. “I like to play inside, but I like to play outside, too.”

Many of the youth agreed that the playground has much to offer, but it is the chance to make new friends that many of the 4- and 5-year-old’s said they enjoy.

“I like my friends,” said Deanna Rowe. “I like the slides, too.”

If the program keeps gaining steam for another 40 years, Rowe may one day have a chance to let her children that same opportunity to hit the slides.