SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – The Economic Opportunity Authority (EOA) is accepting new applicants for their Head Start program, which provides free child care and education.
“Honestly, this program is a Godsend,” said Ayanna Holman, whose education began with Head Start.
She says the program, which serves children ages 6 weeks to 5 years old, gave her a leg up, and she’s making sure her daughter has the same advantage.
“She is getting speech therapy through the Babies Can’t Wait program,” said Holman. “When I tell you it’s been 180, I mean she’s speaking, she’s saying words she’s never said before.”
Head Start Program Director Alycia Brown says students who come through this program are assessed and evaluated. This allows teachers to meet the child where they are at.
“We have developed 13 school readiness goals that allows our families and our children, the people we provide these services, to meet the standards when they go off to public school or private school, said Brown.
She says data they’ve collected shows children who come out of the program do better in secondary education.
Brown adds that some have even gone on to become public servants.
“We’re reaping the benefits of what we have sewn into our community,” said Brown, “that’s most beneficial to us, and it’s so exciting to see that.”
The program is funded by the United States Department of Health and Human Services. The agency monitors all the activities within the Head Start program.
EOA Director Terry Tolbert says this allows them to offer free child care to low-income families. He calls it a “one-stop-shop” because parents can get help with housing, energy assistance and even eviction mediation.
“We are a support mechanism for the parents, the parents play a vital role in the process of educating their children,” said Tolbert, “and we do as well.”
Brown says Head Start is so unique because parents are involved in the education process. While parents don’t have to pay for child care, they are required to volunteer with the program.
Some even serve on their advisory board, shaping policies and curriculum.
“As parents, you never want to feel like you don’t have any control when it comes to your child,” said Holman. “And to just be able to have an input and have a say in how my daughter is educated is just amazing.”
For Holman, it’s come full circle. She’s now back in school full-time, hoping to graduate with a degree in elementary education.
“Being inspired by the people that I am surrounded with at the EOA program has definitely pushed me to give back what I can to my community,” said Holman.
The EOA says Head Start can service up to 600 children, but right now only about 300 are enrolled. To learn more about the program or find out how to apply, just click here.