BCFS Education Services’ Head Start is a national program that promotes school readiness for children ages 3 to 5. Enrolled families access services that provide educational, nutritional, health and social support, including monthly events and activities for the whole family. The program enhances the social and cognitive development of young children and aims to keep families actively involved in the process.
Head Start in Pleasanton, Texas, one of Atascosa County’s four locations, is no exception. Here, families are invited to take an active role in their children’s education in order to foster strong connections and build a healthy support system. With the help of family specialists and coaches, parents can identify family strengths, interests and goals, and pursue them alongside their children.
In partnership with local schools, Head Start in Pleasanton services low-income families of preschool-aged children. Activities are often themed: for example, to celebrate February as Dental Hygiene Month, kids were given supplies to take home and create a mouth out of marshmallows with their families.
March is shaping up to be just as much fun. “We’re going to do a kite day,” said Amy Duvall, a Family Specialist at Pleasanton Head Start. “We’re going to invite all of the father figures in a child’s life to come and help them fly a kite.”
Though the simple acts of kite-flying and crafting may seem small, for these children and their families they hold emotional significance. Small but profound collaborative activities provide key tools that strengthen the bond between school and home life, giving kids a literal “head start” toward a successful academic career.
“In our community, there can be barriers keeping working parents from involvement in their children’s learning,” Amy explained. “But children tend to have a better grasp on subject matter when their families stay involved.”
She’s right: Extensive research has shown that children achieve more in school when their parents have an active role in their education, starting at a young age.
This can be challenging when some children don’t have as much support at home as their classmates. For example, Head Start hosts fatherhood initiatives to get dads involved in their children’s day-to-day learning. But, as noted by JoAnn Rodriguez, Pleasanton’s Lead Family Coach, not all families have a father figure.
“We allow anybody to come,” JoAnn said. “Including grandparents, uncles, a brother, a mom or an aunt. We don’t limit [these activities] to just fathers — we want any close family member or guardian who is part of their lives to work with them at school and at home as well.”
Recently, Pleasanton Head Start partnered with local schools to host Family Curriculum night. This event yielded an amazing turnout, with 100 of 160 Pre-K families in attendance. Parents joined their children in math, science, literacy and technology activities.
“It’s a lot of fun — they make putty at the science station, they have interactive masking,” Amy said of the event. “The technology station introduces parents to websites that are kid-friendly for helping them learn.”
Children also performed the ABC song and the Pledge of Allegiance for families in attendance. It was clear the children were having fun, but the event, and activities like it throughout the year, are extremely valuable for parents to witness their child’s school readiness first-hand. By spending time with teachers at school, parents are better equipped to make the home a productive atmosphere for continued learning, as well.
Amy recalls her favorite past events, which include a fatherhood activity making reindeer crafts and a shoebox float parade. 2016 promises to bring even more treasured memories, including farm days, where parents come in and plant with their children, a Mother’s Day visit to a local nursery, and a trip to Morgan’s Wonderland, a family-friendly theme park in San Antonio.
According to Christina Cervantes, BCFS Education Services Program Director for the Pleasanton Head Start, the most promising element in play is Head Start’s growing relationship with local schools. 2016 is the third year the BCFS Education Services’ Head Start program has worked with the schools in what has turned into an “amazing partnership.”
“It’s just getting better and better,” Christina said. “We have a really great, positive relationship with the school and the community. We look forward to the future, and we hope to increase our numbers so we can serve even more children and families.”
As the children and their parents continue to build trust in them, Amy, JoAnn and Christina hope that the vital connection between classroom and family carries Head Start students into many happy, healthy school years ahead.
For more information about BCFS Education Services’ Head Start, visit DiscoverBCFS.net/HeadStart.