Headstart Awareness month highlights community’s need

Published 8:15 am Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Going to school for the first time can be difficult for many kindergartners, especially for families without the resources to prepare their children for the transition on their own.

Thankfully for Carter County students, another option exists to help these upcoming students get ready, and with Headstart Awareness Month coming to a close, Carter County’s branch of the program wants the community to know just what it can provide for the community.

Headstart is a federally funded program geared towards early childhood children.

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“It started out as a summer program,” Director LeAnn Carr said.

The program provides resources for low-income families, helping the children prepare so they can be ready when school begins.

These resources include a health fair every September, encouraging parents to participate with their children through community clubs, agencies and local churches and its staff, who all have degrees in early childhood education.

Carr said they currently serve 153 children in Carter County alone across its eight centers.

“We are not a day-care,” Education Manager Sheila Ellis said. “We have a curriculum and standardized testing.”

This does not mean, however, that participants in the program are held to just as strict a standard as other students, however.

“They are children,” Ellis said. “We provide rest and playtime.”

Unlike other districts in the state, Carter County’s Headstart program is one of four in Tennessee that is based within the school system itself, which they said is monumental in ensuring the children are adequately prepared for their first school year.

“I was a teacher for 10 years,” Ellis said. “Other teachers can tell when a child comes from Headstart.”

The program can be stressful to manage, but they said the children make the experience worth it.

“You have to love children to work with them,” Carr said. “It is rewarding to see how they develop.”

They said it is their goal to help children in the program develop socially, intellectually, physically and emotionally.

Those interested in finding out more information about the Headstart program can do so by calling 423-543-4006. Potential applicants must be four years old by August 30 each year.