Head Start celebrating 50 years of helping children and families

| May 15, 2015

COSHOCTON – Head Start’s end of the year carnival is about more than just having a fun time.

“It can be really emotional,” said Susan Craddock, Early Head Start Education Manager. “We are sending our older children off to kindergarten, remembering what happened during the school year and saying goodbye to the families.”

The final hurrah of the school year was held May 14 at the Coshocton County Fairgrounds and included lunch and plenty of activities for the entire family.

“We try to do things that are made out of recyclables or stuff families already have at home so they can enjoy the activity again at home,” said Kris Unger, family and community engagement manger. “One example is moon sand, which is just baby oil and flour.”

Klarrissa Powell’s 2-year-old daughter Alyessia Pigman loved the bubble station at the carnival and her time with Early Head Start.

“She gets to interact with other kids and learn to share,” Powell said. “She loves playing with the other kids.”

Head Start serves children and their families through three programs. One is home based, the other is Early Head Start and the final one is Head Start. Enrollment is income based and also opened to all children with disabilities.

“We do a lot of active learning,” Craddock said. “Our preschoolers aren’t just sitting in chairs.”

The home based program is for pregnant women to children age 3 and families are visited one time a week in their home. Early Head Start is for the same age range, but there are three classrooms hosting it at the Otsego Avenue site. Head Start is a preschool program for children ages 3-5 and classes are held at three separate locations.

Rose Geer’s 4-year-old daughter Lydia Wheeler has been involved with Head Start since she was 18 months old and now goes to preschool at the Fresno site.

“She really does well with the structured activities and the other kids,” Geer said. “The teachers also are awesome. She’s learned a lot.”

This past year Head Start’s total enrollment was 242 and staff members are hoping that number will grow as they promote the program and the 50th anniversary that it is celebrating.

“Lydia loves her teachers, loves to ride the bus and is excited to go to school,” Geer said.

Head Start is not just education based. It partners with other social service organizations to make sure they help the entire family succeed.

“It’s very parent driven,” Unger said.

Craddock said that the parents help put plans in place.

“We make a parenting plan and help them learn about their children and their interests,” she said. “We tell parents they are their child’s first and most important teacher.”

Head Start keeps the parents as involved as possible and even works with the Opportunity School to help parents finish their high school education.

“They come to our Otsego Avenue site to work on their schooling on the computers and their children go to Early Head Start,” Craddock said. “That way they can get hands on parenting lessons and still be part of their own classroom.”

They also have helped parents find jobs and even homes.

“We are often their first point of contact for job leads or even if they suspect their child has a disability,” Unger said. “We can make referrals and help them get the ball rolling.”

Craddock and Unger both hope Head Start continues to grow and connect with more families in the future. Craddock also would like to become more connected with the community so people know what Head Start is about and children have a seamless transition to kindergarten.

“We want to help families do more than they think they can,” Unger said. “Some of our families don’t have a lot of support and we become that for them. I definitely want to get more involved with the families. We have phenomenal parents right now. Their children are their number one priority and they do what they can to make sure they are taken care of.”

For information on enrolling your child in a Head Start program, call 740-622-9537.

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About the Author ()

I started my journalism career in 2002 with a daily newspaper chain. After various stops with them, I am happy to be back home! I graduated from Coshocton High School in 1998 and received a Bachelor of Arts in Communication in 2002 from Walsh University. I also earned several awards while working for daily papers, including being honored by Coshocton County’s veterans for the stories I wrote about them. I am honored and ready to once again shine a positive light on Coshocton County. I also am the proud mother of a little girl named Sophia!

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