Our Quote of the Week reminds us that Head Start, a War on Poverty-era program that combines early childhood education, nutrition, health, and social services programs for young children and their parents, continues to be an important community resource for interrupting cycles of poverty. Head Start celebrated its 57th anniversary this month.
At the age of 89, Sargent Shriver sent this speech to the National Head Start Association so that his words could be included in the program for its 40th anniversary celebration. Our Quote of the Week is taken from this speech. In his remarks, Sargent Shriver makes clear that the reason for which Head Start is so successful is that it takes a comprehensive approach to nurturing the well-being of young children. Head Start provides early childhood education for children at a critical time in their development. Programs vary from place to place, but the overall age range today is from birth to age five. The programs also serve children in other ways, by ensuring that their health care and nutritional needs are met. Head Start programs actively engage parents, as well, by encouraging involvement in daily activities and providing volunteer opportunities that strengthen leadership skills.
As with all of the other programs of the War on Poverty, Head Start programs cater to the individual needs of the community in which they operate. There is no single blueprint for Head Start programs; each one addresses the distinct needs of its own community. One thing holds true across all programs, however: Head Start’s holistic approach to tending to young children’s many needs, combined with a structure that provides two generations, young children and their parents, with key resources, allows a community to address several crucial factors that keep families in poverty: lack of adequate education, lack of health care and nutrition, lack of child care, and lack of economic and leadership opportunities.