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Educators, parents gather at Capitol for Head Start rally

Photo courtesy of TeleSouth Communications, Inc.

Hundreds of Mississippi parents, teachers, community leaders, lawmakers, partners, and allies of Head Start gathered for a rally and press conference on the steps of the state capitol to show their support for the comprehensive early childhood development program.

“For more than half a century, Head Start has been a vital part of the early childhood landscape in Mississippi, preparing children and strengthening families,” Mississippi Head Start Association Executive Director Nita Norphlet-Thompson said. “Statewide research proves that Head Start is helping children in Mississippi make significant gains in language development, literacy, physical development, and math skills. Head Start is putting children on a lifelong path to success, and we’re here in Jackson today to make sure our lawmakers know that!”

Norphlet-Thompson said the rally and press conference were organized in an effort to bring together advocates of Head Start to share evidence of the program’s effectiveness. She said that nearly 25,000 children ages birth to five are enrolled in Head Start programs throughout Mississippi this year.

In addition, children who participate in Mississippi Head Start have shown gains in vocabulary, early reading, early numeracy, and behavioral skills. Recent state data also found strong growth in language scores among Head Start children during kindergarten. Many programs are nationally accredited, and teachers often have bachelor’s or even master’s degrees in early childhood education.

Norphlet-Thompson said Head Start also looks to serve parents through job training and job search assistance.

“In central Mississippi, for example, the Friends of Children of Mississippi, Inc. (FCMI), Head Start program has built successful partnerships with job centers and workforce programs in Madison County,” Norphlet-Thompson said. “Over the past 15 years, FCMI has provided child care services for over 5,000 parents who were engaged in job training, early childhood development/education training and/or job search activities.”

National research done by the Head Start association shows that children who participate in Head Start programs receive advantages that can appear immediately, last a lifetime, and even have an effect on other generations.

The effects include kindergarten readiness, fewer school absences, more high school graduation and college attendance. In addition, higher earnings and less crime are particularly strong among Hispanic and African-American children, dual language learners, children who are homeless or in foster care, and those whose mothers didn’t graduate high school.

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