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Giving children the Head Start they need

The local Head Start program is currently accepting applications for new students


by: CONTRIBUTED PHOTO - Head Start students enjoy an art project with an instructor. NeighborImpact's Head Start provides educational and health-wellness programs.

Applications are now available for families looking to enroll their children in NeighborImpact's Head Start program in Crook County.

In its 11th year, Head Start enrolls 516 3- and 4-year-old children in 24 classrooms located throughout Crook and Deschutes counties.

For the 2012-13 academic year, the program served 69 Crook County children and their families, filling 60 available seats in three classrooms at its facility next door to Cecil Sly Elementary School.

"Head Start works to expand parenting skills and economic stability, and to ensure that unmet medical and dental needs are addressed," explains Patty Wilson, NeighborImpact Deputy Director. "We not only advocate for the child, but the parents as well."

Two years ago, Joe Hight and his then 4-year-old son Aiden moved to Prineville and, soon after his arrival and meeting the Head Start staff, Joe signed Aiden up for class.

Aiden, now 5, is enrolled in the dual language immersion program at Ochoco Elementary, and, according to Hight, is "doing amazingly well!"

Head Start provides a broad range of services in addition to classroom education. Health, nutrition, and family support services are complemented by an array of NeighborImpact programs, supporting families in all areas of their lives.

There are eligibility requirements and all enrolled children must come from households living in poverty. Priority is given to children who are homeless, identified with special needs, are in foster care, or who have suffered from abuse, neglect and early childhood trauma.

"Head Start is unique because of our specialized services," said Wilson. "We want to make sure that all kids have the opportunity to overcome learning barriers so they can succeed once they enter the public school system."

In support of that goal, the program's annual report states that in 2012-2013, 92 percent of the 4 year-olds served met or exceeded developmental expectations.

Hight's experience with Head Start is an example of the program's mission to treat not only the child, but the entire family.

"Being a part of NeighborImpact has changed who I am," said Hight, currently the chairman of Head Start's Program Policy Council. "You don't always pick the road to poverty, sometimes the road picks you. But you don't have to be a victim."

To qualify for Head Start, children must live in Deschutes or Crook counties and be 3 or 4-years-old as of Sept. 1, 2014. Applications and information regarding eligibility documentation is available for download at www.neighborimpact.org, or area NeighborImpact offices in Bend, La Pine, Redmond and Prineville. Families can also call 541-323-6527 to have an application mailed to them.



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