I’m a product of Head Start

Welcome to my #Day4 post for #YourTurnChallenge.

I am a product of my parents’ generation, but I’m also a product of a government program that dates back to JFK’s successor, President Lyndon B. Johnson — LBJ.

It will soon be my privilege to work on a project involving this program that helped shape me.

Memories of Head Start
My memories of Head Start, an early childhood development program for low-income families, are mostly about my mom and the First Methodist Church in South Bend, In. It’s a Montessori school now. Head start provides disadvantaged families with essentials for children ages 3-5  and a place to develop socially, socially and cognitively.

Partnering with Parents
Not sure I knew this at the time, but I think Mom was a teacher’s aid. Or maybe parents had to volunteer time if their kids were enrolled.

Anyway, she was there a lot. To my surprise, I may have been a picky eater during my early years, because I can remember at lunch or snack time, my mom trying to make eating fun (sound familiar to you parents out there?):

“Mama Mia, Papa Pia – eat your lunch!”
— My mom

I fell for it – every time. Maybe I wasn’t a picky eater…

Then there was nap time.

My spot, just under the window near the middle of the room, was where I would lay my head for, oh, maybe 20 minutes. (Probably while my mom and the teacher took some aspirin and naps of their own.)

The only thing between me and that cold, asbestos-laden, marbly floor tile was a bath-towel-sized swath of white seersucker with tiny red hearts and a white ribbon border. It was like sleeping on Saran Wrap.

Still, I loved that blanket. My grandma had made it just for me.

my-fourth-birthday

My 4th birthday. Mom was proud; my brother just wanted cake.

In child development, little things go a long way
It may not seem like much, but Head Start gave my family a much-needed boost while preparing me for school and giving me a love for learning. After all, we were a family of six on a minister’s income, which wasn’t much.

I’m not a child development expert, but for nearly 10 years I worked for a child development organization and communicated its mission and impact to donors.

For years, I traveled extensively to gather stories or coach others on it, and I witnessed first-hand how important it is to give children a healthy, strong start to life. It is often the difference between living a future of hardship and poverty – or not.

Like many programs from the Great Society era, Head Start is due for an update. It will be exciting to see how it evolves to serve the modern family and continue giving kids a strong start to a healthy and productive life.

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