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Head Start gives very young Detroiters the tools for their success and to transform the city’s future

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Kenyatta Stovall wanted a safe, hands-on school dedicated to learning for her two-year –old daughters Khayriyah and Maleigha. The girls started in the Early Head Start program at Southwest Solutions Central High School last month.

Kenyatta Stovall and her daughters Khayriyah and Maleigha

Kenyatta Stovall and her daughters Khayriyah and Maleigha

“They’re really opening up,” she says. “They’re more talkative and learning more words, after being at the center just one month. One day my daughter started counting to me in Spanish. That was a pleasant surprise. It showed me they’re learning. I feel good about that.”

Larissa Jimenez says it’s never too early to start on a child’s education so she just pre-registered her daughter, Zenaida, for the Early Head Start program at the Matrix Vistas Nuevas center. Zenaida is almost two and her mom wanted her to be with other kids in a classroom.

Larissa Jimenez  and her daughter Zenaida

Larissa Jimenez and her daughter Zenaida

Stovall and Jimenez are just two of more than 3,000 Detroit families who are involved in Head Start. Now there’s room for even more thanks to increased funding over the last 18 months. Today there are up to 1,500 additional spots available for pregnant mothers, children ages six-weeks to five-years-old and their families.

Studies show that kids who attend Head Start have better math skills, vocabulary, social behavior and physical development when they enter kindergarten. Enrollment is open now.

Last December the Kresge Foundation committed $20 million over five years to help ensure Detroit’s youngest children have access to high-quality early childhood education and are well prepared for school.

“Kresge wants Detroit’s children – all children – to succeed in school and life,” says Rip Rapson, the foundation’s president and chief executive officer, in an online story from Kresge. “Investments in early childhood education are critically important to our youngest learners and their families. Well-prepared youngsters excel academically, are healthier and contribute more fully to society and the economic mainstream. Investing in young children holds the promise of transforming Detroit and its future.”

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Now in its 50th year, Head Start has funding from the federal government and is free for low-income families who qualify. It’s a great for many Detroit families. Head Start provides $7,000 worth of education, health screening, nutrition, family support, and training services. Participants can choose from more than 60 Detroit Head Start locations across the city with openings.

Head Start’s services include:

  • Individual learning plans
  • Health snacks and meals
  • Family goal setting and support
  • Special services for children with disabilities
  • Prenatal services for pregnant women
  • Developmental screenings
  • Medical and dental support
  • Mental health services
  • Social service referrals and support
  • Parent leadership and learning opportunities
  • Job training

Head Start offers half-day, full-day, and home-based programs. In half-day programs, the child is dropped off every weekday for either a morning or afternoon session. In full-day programs, the child goes every weekday from around 8am to 3pm. That program is open to parents either in school or working. In a home-based program, a well-trained teacher visits the home once per week to lead learning activities.

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Those interested can find out more at to see if they qualify and find a location near their home or work. If you’re interested or know someone who might be now is the time to set up an interview, attend an open house or tour a center to talk to current Early Head Start and Head Start parents and caregivers and meet with agency leads and center staff.

To apply it is best to set an appointment online then the process takes all of about two minutes at the center. Bring the following:

  • Child’s birth certificate
  • Child’s immunization records
  • Proof of income (could be W-2 form, pay stubs, or a statement from the employer)
  • Proof of student status
  • Driver’s license or ID
  • Child’s medical insurance information, if available

After the initial application, staff member will make an appointment within two days to complete all of the other paperwork. This appointment could take an hour, and children can come along. After that, someone from the Head Start staff will let you know within a few days whether or not you can enroll and get started.

Families do have to become part of the Head Start community and volunteer to do such things as help with classroom activities, assist with serving meals, organize special events and help make decisions about Head Start through Policy Councils and Policy Committees.

“I know parents are asked to be involved in the classroom and the school in general,” Jimenez says. “It’s a good thing. Working together will make it better for Zenaida and our family.”

At Head Start kids do more than learn the ABC’s and how count to 10. They are given the tools for their future success … and Detroit’s.

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