A program to help children get ready for school – and break the cycle of poverty – continues to get federal support. PEACE Inc. here in Syracuse will receive $5.8 million for its Head Start program in the region. Program Director Rebecca Heberlie says Head Start and Early Head Start serve about 1200 children, including some parents. In most cases, these are kids who wouldn’t be in other pre-school or Pre-K programs.
“The numbers and the slots are not there in school districts or even other programs that are fiving it their best shots,” Heberlie adds. “So these would be kids who are sitting at home, probably in front of the TV, without interacting with their peers on a regular basis and losing out on all the learning that’s happening each and every day at the Head Start Program. So it would be detrimental to our community otherwise.”
She adds the children receive more than they would in a typical day-care setting, including emotional and social needs, as well as health and nutrition support. There has been debate over the value of educational gains from Head Start...but Heberlie hears all the time from teachers that give her direct feedback.
“Kindergarten teachers who say, on day one I can identify which kids went to Head Start based on their understanding of the classroom environment and all of the knowledge that they have on day one.”
The almost $6 million pays about half of the budget for the program, accoding to Heberlie. The children mostly come from Syracuse City school areas, but some are in Jordan, Baldwinsville, Lafayette and other outlying sites. Plus Heberlie says family members also benefit from the programs and its broad mission.
“…the importance of education and life-long learning and we also work with those families to help set goals, goals that the family wants to achieve. And many times those goals are furthering their own education and we work them to help achieve those goals in any way that we can help and support them. We have numerous stories where people have gone on and actually end up, in many cases, work for us at the Head Start Program.”
Funding for many federal programs has been reduced or questioned. Heberlie says if this appropriation didn’t come through, the children would find themselves seriously behind when starting school – a gap that can be difficult to make up. Senators Kirsten Gillibrand and Chuck Schumer supported the funding. Schumer noted study after study confirm early childhood education pays off in better school performance later in life.
You can find out more, as well as the location of Head Start sites, at PEACE-CAA.org