Colleen Kraft was in preschool when she heard something that helped determine her future.
“I remember that my Head Start teacher told me that I was so smart I should be a doctor,” Kraft reports in her personal biography.
She is president of the American Academy of Pediatrics, an associate professor of pediatrics at the University of Cincinnati School of Medicine and medical director for the Health Network by Cincinnati Children’s.
Research has shown the benefits the Head Start programs produce for learning, behavior, health and parenting skills are significant.
Head Start students scored better than a control group for cognitive and social-emotional development, had higher rates of immunizations, healthier weights and less problematic behaviors. Studies also show that children attending a quality early learning program such as Head Start are more likely to be proficient readers in third grade, more likely to graduate from high school, and go on to attain college degrees.
Poverty is associated with lower academic performance for reasons related to the child, the household and the community.
Low-income parents often have attained less education, are less involved with learning activities with their children and many are struggling with the ongoing stress of meeting their family’s basic needs for food and shelter.
As a result, their children hear fewer words, have poorer health and nutrition, miss more school days, and face more struggles with attention and impulsivity compared to more affluent peers. Impoverished children are also more likely to live in neighborhoods with fewer resources such as libraries and grocery stores.
Head Start and Early Head Start programs provide services to disadvantaged children and their families in three core areas: learning, health and family wellbeing.
Early Head Start provides services for infants from pregnancy until age 3 and Head Start is for children ages 3 and 4.
Children from families that qualify with low income, receive public assistance, foster children and homeless children are eligible for the programs.
Some children with family incomes above the poverty level, including some disabled children, also qualify for Head Start.
While the program is free to eligible families, it is not just a handout program.
WACOG Head Start has openings at all five centers in Kingman and Golden Valley and is looking for families who want greater success for their children and themselves. If you, or a family you know, is willing to invest their time and energy to improve their financial, educational, and health outcomes, please call 928-783-1886 or visit our website at www.wacog.com.
The annual federal budget for Head Start programs is just above $9.5 billion. Arizona receives over $143 million and serves more than 20,000 children and their families. For each invested dollar, Head Start yields an annual ROI ranging from 7 to 9 percent.