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I Am a Product of Head Start

head start

Head Start graduation

In second grade, I was told I should never brag, and I took that admonishment to heart.

I have no recollection why I was boasting, but I do remember Carla Shown looked at me with disdain and said, “No one likes people who brag.”

Her words have stayed with me, but there are times when we have to balance the lessons we learned in our childhood with our experience as adults.

Now is one of those times, and I am going to brag a bit.

I am a product of Head Start.

I feel an obligation to brag, because the voices of low-income children aren’t being heard above the clamor about Syria.

Head Start provides early childhood education, health and nutrition services as well as parent support for low-income children and their families. The services are designed to foster stable family relationships and address early childhood developmental needs.

Research tells us that children who have been through Head Start and Early Head Start are healthier, more academically accomplished, more likely to be employed, commit fewer crimes and contribute more to society.

Common sense tells us that the future of our country hinges on our children, and we should invest in our future.

Unfortunately, common sense often doesn’t prevail on Capitol Hill, and, as a result of sequestration, Head Start has eliminated services for more than 57,000 children this school year. The program is facing even more cuts in the future.

We are going backwards.

Head Start began in 1965, and, because of where I lived, I was enrolled in the program in the early 1970’s. I still have the report cards that documented my progress at mastering a list of tasks and skills and the photos from graduation ceremonies.

At first glance, the photos of my Head Start graduation don’t tell much of a story. There is no indication that the chubby little girl in the red dress would grow up to be the outspoken person I have become.  Nor does it indicate that the little boy in the striped pants would someday graduate from Dartmouth.

But it does show what hope looks like, and if we don’t do something to meet the needs of our children now, we will be seeing fewer and fewer of such photos in the future.