Community Helps Head Start Succeed

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At Head Start, site manager Lynne Winans and teacher Melody Donaldson place emphasis on early childhood education for 20 children.

The program aims to help children, some with learning disabilities, become successful as students and in life.

But, the learning merely begins with the pre-kindergartners.

"We encourage lots of male involvement and parent participation," Winans said.

Fathers, grandparents and significant male role models are invited into the classroom to participate in their child's learning process. The men get to tell the young students what they do for a living.

Field trips include a walk to Julia Randall Elementary as part of the transition to kindergarten and going to Payson Feed to see the baby animals in spring.

Head Start provides training on parenting skills, health and nutrition and discipline techniques at our monthly meetings.

"We encourage families to set goals and achieve them," Winans said.

"There is now a significant science of early intervention that shows... the long-term benefits to young children from their participation in high-quality early intervention programs," said Dr. Ross A. Thompson. He is a professor in the Department of Psychology at the University of California-Davis. He testified before the Early Childhood, Elementary and Secondary Education House Subcommittee in Washington, D.C. in February.

"These studies collectively indicate that early intervention programs can improve developmental outcomes for children who are at risk of long-term difficulty," he said.

Yet it is the community that steps forward to make certain these children have a good start.

Local doctors and their staff help Head Start provide health screenings for vision, hearing and dental health. Head Start children also have their blood iron levels checked.

The Payson Art League, Rotary Club, Mogollon Health Alliance and Kiwanis and other community volunteers help by providing special supplies for the children.

There are also have other community helpers/businesses that come to visit the classroom and share wonderful learning experiences, Winans said.

Monthly visits from "Success Buddies" from the Center for Success and monthly visits from Alice Natale from Rim Country Literacy Program are among the programs the children look forward to the most.

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