Head Start- The Right Start to Life

OCE Community Profile Series

by Laura Stephens

The early years of childhood are vitally important for development from all angles, whether mentally, physically, or emotionally. However, often times, when parents are of lower income and are trying to support their children, it can be difficult for them to provide enough stimulation and enrichment to their children in an affordable way. Head Start offers that lifeline- a safe place for young children to go, where they can learn, socialize, and be supported in a positive environment.

Office of Community Engagement: Tell us about your role in the community.

Head Start: The Head Start program in Williamsburg-James City County provides comprehensive services that includes early childhood education, nutrition, medical, social development, parent involvement, and transportation services for children ages 3- 5 to develop skills that will enable them to be successful when they enter Kindergarten.  We also assist parents with setting goals for themselves and their children.  We empower the parents to be advocates for themselves and their children.  In doing so, we help them to become self-sufficient.

OCE: What role do William and Mary students play at Head Start?

HS: William and Mary students volunteer in our classrooms to work with individual students or small groups to increase the ability of children to feel successful in the classroom setting.  They have also spread mulch for our playground and painted classrooms.  Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority reads to our children twice a month and raises money so that our children can take home books to read.  They also partner with us at our Fun Festival day to create an awareness of the importance of reading.

We generally have an intern that works with our Head Start program during the spring semester as well.

OCE: What benefits does your organization derive from working with William and Mary students, and how do you see the students benefiting from their work?

HS: The William & Mary students assist our teaching staff and increases the opportunity for a teacher/student engaged learning experience for our students by providing individual or small group learning opportunities.   They are able to assist the teaching staff in accomplishing many things in a shorter time frame.

Students who volunteer say that by coming to work in the classroom they are able to keep their work in perspective at William & Mary.  They feel like they make a difference.  The children almost immediate are attached to them and appreciate the attention they get from the students.  Showing encouragement and support for our children increases their chance for success when they get to the public school.

OCE: How does your organization help educate the student volunteers about community needs?

HS: We participate in the S.H.O.W. day for freshmen and begin to tell them about the Community Action Agency.  When students choose to volunteer in our program, they must first participate in an orientation which explains our program and the requirements of it.

OCE: What does active citizenship mean to you?

HS: Active citizenship is citizens who are willing to give of their time and talents to serve and make a positive difference in the community.  The change can be minor or significant depending on the magnitude of the program and how many people will be impacted by their efforts.  It requires putting forth effort and using areas of expertise to increase skills, abilities, and/or self-esteem of another individual(s).