KAYSVILLE – On average, Head Start students are making significant improvements in areas ranging from physical to language development.
That’s not without a need to overcome many challenges, said Judy Jackson, director of the federal Head Start program that mostly works with 4 year-olds from low-income households.
It’s sometimes easy to forget the challenges many families of those children have to deal with on a daily basis, she said.
“Having enough money to pay to keep the heat and lights on, and food on the table Р that’s what many in the community are dealing with,” she said.
“We want them to feel of value, to help them get to the next level,” Jackson said of both parents and their children.
In addition to regular classes for the students, there are job skills classes where parents learn such skills as how to create a resume.
Fatherhood coordinator Brett Lund holds regular dads dinners where fathers of students can interact with one another while enjoying a light meal.
“When you go into the homes, you find out how much the Head Start and Early Head Start parents love their children,” Jackson said.
Often, students come from homes where English is not the primary language. In fact, while there are many Hispanic-speaking households involved, there is also at least one Mongolian student as well as another from the Marshall Islands and others who speak Mandarin, Jackson said.
Particularly for Hispanic families, Head Start tries to have a Spanish-speaking interpreter available. The Davis School also assists with providing such services.
Involvement of parents with their children is a key to success in the program, Jackson said.
Of student outcomes, Marianne Henderson noted that students are tested upon the start of school in the fall, mid-year and in the spring.
That covers social, emotional, and physical areas, including gross and free motor skills. In addition, language, cognitive, literacy and math skills are tested.
Incoming questions are as basic as whether a student knows his or her first or last name, if shapes are recognizable, parts of the body, etc.
“We send activities home with the parents,” Henderson said. That includes a math packet that includes games and other tools that can be done at home.
“Parents are always a child’s first educator,” she emphasized.
Some students and families who don’t attend school-based classes are visited twice a month by staff. Other students whose parents work attend a full-day Head Start program.
There are 533 students in the Davis County program, spread in about 20 schools, including several in South Davis.
Demand exceeds spaces, with 112 currently on a waiting list.