Early childhood education is important to a child’s success in kindergarten and beyond. But many times, preschool programs are expensive, leaving many children behind. Head Start was created to help eliminate those barriers. Shortly after moving to Richmond, Steven and Jessica were looking at daycare options for their young daughter, Aubree. While on a tour of Harvest Christian Academy, the couple learned about the Early Head Start (EHS) program. Unaware of Head Start, Jessica began researching the program. Foothills’ Head Start program helps economically disadvantaged children from birth to 5 years old develop educational and social skills. The agency believes that parents are the first and most important teachers in the lives of their children. Family members are encouraged to be involved in activities and educational experiences that will help foster a lifetime of commitment to quality education. Head Start promotes school readiness by enhancing the social and cognitive development of children through the provision of educational, health, nutritional, social and other services to enrolled children and families. The program develops partnerships with community agencies, including public schools, to provide additional services and resources for parents and children. Head Start works to meet each child’s individual needs. Through this early socialization and educational experience, children who attend Head Start and Early Head Start are exposed to both the Head Start Early Learning Framework and the Kentucky Early Childhood Standards. “After talking to staff, I felt this program might benefit Aubree more than being in a daycare classroom,” said Jessica. Aubree spent a year in EHS and transitioned to Head Start last fall. “Aubree’s always been an independent child,” said Jessica. “Head Start definitely encouraged and strengthened her independence.” Aubree loves story time. While she sees it as fun, her teacher sees it as valuable learning time. “She’s growing academically without realizing it because much of the learning happens through play.” In addition to reading, Aubree is learning counting and math concepts. She’s also developing her problem solving skills and learning how to interact with other people. “Aubree loves going to Head Start every day,” said Jessica. “She can’t wait to go to the ‘big girl’ school like her older sister, Skyler, 6. Her younger brother, Gabriel, is on the EHS wait list. “I love many aspects of Head Start – the focus placed on individual child’s needs, the attention given to children by their teachers, and the encouragement families receive,” said Jessica. “My favorite thing is how dedicated and passionate employees are – from classroom aids to directors. Everyone works together to strengthen the program.” Jessica’s only regret is not knowing about Head Start when Skyler was young enough to attend. “This program helped me grow as a person,” said Jessica. “Observing what Head Start does for children and families encouraged me to become involved. The desire to belong to something greater than myself helped me come out of my comfort zone and become a leader.” Jessica began volunteering in the classroom and served on the Area Policy Council, the body that provides oversight and shared governance for the program. She was elected APC President in 2014 and is currently serving her second term. In 2015 she was appointed as a parent representative to serve on the Region IV Head Start Association (RIVHSA) Board of Directors. RIVHSA represents eight states and is an active affiliate of the National Head Start Association. Jessica has had amazing opportunities to advocate for Head Start. “By participating in APC, attending trainings, and just talking with staff throughout our region I have been able to contribute to Head Start while developing my own skill set,” said Jessica. “I’m proud to say that I’ve been encouraged and strengthened in my development right along with my daughter.” Pictured clockwise: Steven, Jessica, Skyler, Aubree, and Gabriel.
Story time is a favorite for many three and four year olds. And while they see it as fun, teachers see it as valuable learning time to help prepare them for kindergarten. Ever since they were toddlers, Matthew and his sister Keira have been a part of Foothills’ Head Start Program. Their mom, Shauna, decided to enroll them in the program so they could be prepared for school. Foothills’ Head Start program helps economically disadvantaged children from birth to 5 years old develop educational and social skills. Family members are encouraged to be involved in activities and educational experiences that will help foster a lifetime of commitment to quality education. In collaboration with the county school systems, Head Start promoHeadStarttes school readiness by enhancing the social and cognitive development of children through the provision of educational, health, nutritional, social and other services to enrolled children and families. The program develops partnerships with community agencies to provide additional services and resources for parents and children. Head Start works to meet each child’s individual needs. Through this early socialization and educational experience, children who attend Head Start and Early Head Start are exposed to both the Head Start Early Learning Framework and the Kentucky Early Childhood Standards. “Head Start helped Matthew and Keira tremendously,” said Shauna. “They both learned so much in the program. Head Start really helped Keira with her speech problem and learning disabilities.” Being recently divorced and having gone through some rough times, Shauna found much more than a preschool program – she found a support system. At one point Shauna and her family found themselves homeless, living in a hotel room for two months. While receiving help from a local church she also worked with caseworkers. Foothills helped Shauna to transition into a beautiful 3-bedroom mobile home with a huge backyard where the children can play. “Oh my goodness, “said Shauna, “if it weren’t for this program I wouldn’t be where I am today.” Shauna now works third shift at a local factory and loves it. “The hours I work allow me to help with homework after school and eat dinner as a family,” she said. “I don’t want to miss anything in my children’s lives. They are everything to me.” Even though her children transitioned out of Head Start last year, Shauna continues to be an active member at the Berea Head Start Center and serves on the Area Policy Council, the body that provides oversight and shared governance for the Head Start program. She also volunteers in the classroom whenever she can. In 2012-13 she served as Area Policy Council President. “It’s important to me that my children see me as an active, involved parent,” she said. Shauna also started a support group for single parents that continues to meet monthly. “I wanted to create a safe place where single parents could come together and offer advice and support to each other.” She wanted to show people that they weren’t alone. “Head Start has done so much for me and my children,” said Shauna. “This program helped build a foundation for my children’s life.” She went on to say, “They’re like family. Personally they’ve helped me so much. They took time to invest in me. They boosted my confidence and helped build my self-esteem. For so long I thought I was weak, but with Foothills help I’ve learned that I’m strong.”
Head Start is the most important social and educational investment for children, families, and communities that the United States has ever undertaken. Wanting to give their children the best of everything, Jamie and Avery decided to enroll Connar and Carsyn in the Foothills program to help prepare them for public school. Connar, who started kindergarten last year, attended Head Start for one year, and Carsyn is currently enrolled in her second year of the program. “Our main goals for placing our children in Head Start was for them to make friends, learn how to play with other children, and become accustomed to being away from home,” said Avery. “What we got was much more!” Foothills’ Head Start program helps economically disadvantaged children from birth to 5 years old develop educational and social skills. Family members are encouraged to be involved in activities and educational experiences that will help foster a lifetime of commitment to quality education. In collaboration with the county school systems, Head Start promotes school readiness by enhancing the social and cognitive development of children through the provision of educational, health, nutritional, social and other services to enrolled children and families. They develop partnerships with community agencies to provide additional services and resources to parents and children. Head Start works to meet each child’s individual needs. Through this early socialization and educational experience, children who attend Head Start and Early Head Start are exposed to both the Head Start Early Learning Framework and the Kentucky Early Childhood Standards. “The atmosphere here is just wonderful,” said Avery. “Every child should be able to have a preschool experience like this before they enter kindergarten. I think it helps them understand how much fun learning can be. Head Start has really given them the confidence to learn.” Avery went on to say that Connar is ahead of his fellow classmates in schoolwork. When he started public school he could write his name, knew his numbers and colors, and could read. The program also helps children learn the fundamentals of personal hygiene, such brushing teeth, washing hands, and healthy eating. The program has instilled a love of reading in both children and they insist on reading a book every night. Jamie and Avery agree that the program has helped them be better parents and has helped them communicate with their children better. “Head Start has been instrumental in helping Carsyn improve her speech,” said Avery. “Before Head Start began working with her, she was hard to understand.” Her speech was quickly evaluated and speech therapy was provided. Jamie and Avery were also given resources on helping her at home. Head Start teachers worked with Carsyn and the family to help her develop social skills and now she has begun leading group activities, and actively participates in classroom routines. “She loves to draw and play on the computer,” said Kerstin, 13, her older sister. At the same time, Jamie has become active in the Head Start program, taking full advantage of the comprehensive services the program offers. She volunteers at the Powell Center and attends monthly planning and parenting meetings. She serves on the Area Head Start Policy Council, the body that provides oversight and shared governance for the Head Start program, and has served as Secretary for the past two years. She’s also an active member of Foothills Board of Directors. “I love what Foothills is all about,” said Jamie. “They have a great staff that truly cares about helping people.” Jamie and Avery regularly participate in the center’s Family Fun Nights, further demonstrating a commitment to their children’s education. “It’s Head Start’s focus on the entire family—not just the child—that differentiates the program from others,” said Jamie. With the help of Foothills, Carsyn is eager to follow in Connar’s footsteps next year. Pictured clockwise: Connar, Carsyn, Avery, Jamie and Kerstin.
Shannon’s relationship with Foothills’ Head Start program began over 30 years ago when she was a student in a small classroom at the old Oliver Community Center in Clark County. She fondly remembers her time in the program. Shannon stated that Head Start not only helped her; it also helped her parents. Shannon had been told early in life that she was unable to have children of her own. Before she married her husband Joe, she actively spent time nurturing children as a foster parent. Shortly after the couple married eight years ago, they decided to be foster parents together. Shayne came into their home when he was only a few days old. Around the same time, Shannon found out that she was six weeks pregnant. “We were thrilled,” she exclaimed. “I can’t describe how blessed we were to have two children.” Within a year, the couple had Joseph, AKA “little Joe”, and fostered Shayne’s biological brother Andrew. Since then, Shayne and Andrew have both been adopted by the couple. “Children are precious gifts,” said Shannon, “and we have three healthy, beautiful boys.” When each boy was old enough they began attending the Head Start program. Foothills’ Head Start program helps economically disadvantaged children from birth to five years old develop educational and social skills. Family members are encouraged to be involved in activities and educational experiences that help foster a lifetime of commitment to quality education. In collaboration with the county school systems, Head Start promotes school readiness by enhancing the social and cognitive development of children through the provision of educational, health, nutritional, social and other services to enrolled children and families. Shayne, the oldest, transitioned into Head Start from First Steps, a statewide early intervention program that provides services to children with developmental disabilities from birth to age three and their families. Little Joe and Andrew went straight into Head Start. All three boys attended the program for two years. “Head Start is a great program,” said Shannon. “The teachers are wonderful and genuinely care about the children.” The couple credits the Head Start program for instilling valuable life skills into their boys. “We’ve both seen a tremendous change in the boys since they’ve attended Head Start,” said Joe. “The program thoroughly prepared them for kindergarten.” Not only has the program helped the boys, it has also helped Joe and Shannon. Joe is very involved with the Head Start parent committee and serves on the School Based Decision Making Council at Shayne’s elementary school. Shannon, who is also involved in the local parent committee, serves as a liaison between the local parent group and the program’s Area Policy Council (APC). The most important way in which governance is shared with Head Start parents is through the Head Start APC. By serving as a member of this committee, Shannon has the opportunity to provide direction to Foothills’ Head Start program. Last year, Shannon was elected as President of APC. “I enjoy serving on APC,” said Shannon. “It’s meaningful to advocate for children, because they can’t advocate for themselves.” Through her service, Shannon has gained valuable leadership skills. In 2010, she had the opportunity to attend the Kentucky Head Start Association State Conference where she brought back valuable ideas that were used in both the classroom and her home. As a family, they enjoy attending church, walking outside, playing at the park, watching movies, and going on trips to places such as the zoo and Kings Island. Every summer they enjoy the summer reading program at the local Library. “We are very thankful for what Head Start has done for our family,” said Shannon, who is pregnant and expecting another child in April. Pictured l-r: Shayne, little Joe, Shannon, Joe, and Andrew.
Head Start is a great program not only for kids, but also for their parents. Charles and Vickie, who have been married eight years, made the decision to enroll both of their children in the program. Foothills’ Head Start program provides economically disadvantaged children with a foundation of skills and knowledge needed for success in school and life. As the agency’s largest program, Head Start serves children in eight counties. Besides regular Head Start, including a recent expansion of the Powell County program, Foothills serves children birth through age 3 at its Early Head Start classrooms that are located in Clark, Estill, Madison and Powell counties. Charles and Vickie are very passionate about their children’s education and have a personal reason why they want them to succeed in life. “I want more for my children,” said Vickie. “I don’t want them to struggle the way I did.” Having moved around as a child her own education was interrupted. For the past seven years she has been working with Operation Read to learn to read. It’s been tough because she has a learning disability that sometimes serves as a roadblock. Her goal is to obtain a GED and she is hopeful that she can achieve that goal within the next year. “We don’t want our children to slip through the cracks; therefore we are determined to be as involved as we can in their education,” said Charles. Taylor, their daughter, attended Head Start and her younger brother, Turk, is now following in her footsteps. When asked what he liked most about Head Start, Turk replied “playing.” He’s also very fond of his teacher. “We are very pleased with the program,” said Vickie. “We are impressed with the amount of one-on-one attention our children receive.” Turk is thriving and learning new things every day. “Head Start has made my children excited to learn,” said Charles. “Everyday Turk comes home and tells us what he’s learned.” But learning doesn’t stop at school. “Our children really enjoy reading books,” said Charles. “Sometimes we spend hours each night reading.” Besides reading to their children at home, the couple spends countless hours volunteering at the Head Start Center. “It’s important for us that Taylor and Turk see us involved in their lives,” said Charles. In 2010, the couple had the opportunity to attend the Kentucky Head Start Association Convention in Louisville. At the convention they, along with other parents, participated in various educational training sessions. Recently, Charles was elected by the parent group at Turk’s Head Start Center to represent the center’s parents on the Head Start Area Policy Council. As an Area Policy Council member, Charles will have the opportunity to help provide direction of Foothills Head Start operations. “I’m very excited about serving in this capacity,” said Charles. “It’s just awesome to give back – especially to a program that has given us so much.”
Amber is a beautiful and enthusiastic child, all energy and eager for kindergarten. It’s hard to imagine what she’s been through in her few short years of life. Arettia and Ishmal, a couple who never dreamed of having children of their own, adopted Amber and Keith recently. Both of the children have the same birth mother. Amber and Keith came from an abusive, neglectful environment. They have two additional siblings who live with a foster family close by. “When we got Amber she was very timid and withdrawn,” said Arietta. “If anyone raised their voice, even slightly, it would scare her to death.” Arettia and Ishmal were determined to turn Amber’s life around. “I had enrolled her in daycare but felt like she needed more, so I enrolled her in Head Start,” she said. In the Head Start program, Amber began coming out of her shell. The teachers and staff encouraged her. “They would compliment her when she would do something great,” said Arettia. “Head Start is a wonderful service. I have really enjoyed working with the program.” Foothills’ Head Start program helps economically disadvantaged children from 3 to 5 years old develop their educational and social skills. Through this early socialization and educational experience, children who attend Head Start are more likely to overcome learning disabilities often exacerbated by the effects of hunger, poverty, or environment. Through Head Start’s comprehensive parent involvement program, parents participate in the decision-making, volunteer in the classroom and develop parent-sponsored activities and training. Arettia has served on the Head Start Area Policy Council. “Through APC, I learned a lot of facts about children and their environments. The information that they provided to me was very useful.” She served as President of the Parent Committee for one year while Amber was enrolled at the Intergenerational Center. The family has since moved and now Amber attends Head Start in Kirksville. She loves the playground and the pretend area in the classroom. “I had the opportunity to volunteer quite a bit in the classroom,” said Arettia. “I think it’s wonderful that the Head Start program in Berea is at an intergenerational facility. It was heartwarming to watch the children interact with the seniors on Fridays. This experience was gratifying and rewarding for both the children and the seniors. They learn so much from each other.” Recently, Arettia and Ishmal became parents again, when Amber’s birth mother had another baby, Hayden. They have custody of her as well. Arettia is enjoying this new season of her life and her new role of being a mom. She credits Head Start for helping Amber grow into the giggling, playful child she is today. “Head Start is wonderful. They teach parents how to educate their own children. They give parents options with regards to discipline. They also teach parents how to have more patience. We are extremely grateful.”
The foundations for school and life achievement are established in a child’s earliest years. Their first few years are a time of enormous growth of linguistic, conceptual, social, emotional, and motor competence. When Kimberly and Richard heard Head Start was offered in their community, they knew their two young boys Hayden, 7, and Drake, 5, would attend. “I wanted them to become familiar with a school setting before they actually started school,” Kimberly said. “I was a Head Start child and so were my brothers and sisters. I remember that experience and wanted the same for Hayden and Drake.” Head Start helps economically disadvantaged children from 3 to 5 years old develop their educational and social skills. Teachers involve family members in instruction and other center-based activities to help foster a lifetime of commitment to quality education. Hayden and Drake attended Head Start at Central Learning Center in Clark County. Through Head Start’s comprehensive parent involvement program, parents participate in decision-making, volunteer in the classroom, and develop parent-sponsored activities. Kimberly has benefited just as much as the boys. “When Hayden was born, I left the corporate world to become a stay-at-home mom,” she said. “It was a huge transition. When we started Head Start, I became very involved.” For two years Kimberly served as Parent Committee President for Clark County and served on the Area Policy Council (APC). She served as APC President for one year (06-07). “I strive to be involved with the program,” said Kimberly, “which has been very fun. They really push parent involvement.” Through her experience with Head Start, Kimberly promotes the program and refers people to other Foothills programs. “Head Start absolutely loves their families,” said Kimberly. “That’s really cool because they go all out for us. If you take advantage of that, your kids are deeply impacted.” Kimberly loves that Head Start works with each child to uplift them and praise them. The staff work on building the children’s self-esteem and confidence. “Staff focus on all aspects of a child’s well-being,” said Kimberly. “They give people hope.” Hayden and Drake have significantly benefited from the program. “Head Start is a really good first experience for families,” said Kimberly. “It’s a fantastic face to put on the whole school setting. They do a lot of great things. Head Start really does give children a head start!” Pictured l-r: Kimberly, Drake and Hayden.