For Logan resident Lisa Richards, the Head Start program is a family matter.
Richards, 30, is now the center coordinator for Athens Head Start, but she started as a parent whose three children – now 8, 11 and 12 – attended the Logan Head Start program. Head Start is a national program that promotes school readiness by enhancing the social and cognitive development of children through educational, health, nutritional, social and other services offered to enrolled students and families.
Richards had a longtime interest in teaching and soon began working at the center, earning her degree in early childhood education from Ohio University along the way.
“I think being part of Head Start has made me more open,” Richards said. “The different help you can get for families is overwhelming.”
Richards has served as the center coordinator in Athens since August 2006 and is getting another chance to watch one of her own benefit from the program; she is the caretaker of her 5-year-old nephew, Keith, who has ADHD. Keith has been enrolled in the Logan Head Start program for the last year, and Richards said he is calmer and happier due to the patient efforts of his Head Start instructors.
“There’s been a tremendous change in him with the extra help,” Richards said.
Richards’ Hocking, Athens, Perry Community Action Head Start program was chosen as one of the pilots for Ohio’s statewide “Step Up to Quality” rating system. The system is a voluntary set of health, safety and quality standards for early child care and education centers developed by the Ohio Department of Jobs and Family Services and the Ohio Department of Education in 2005. Participating programs receive a 1, 2 or 3 star rating based on their compliance with the standards, with 3 being the highest.
Four early childhood education programs in Hocking, Athens and Perry counties are rated as 3-star programs according to the criteria. They earned their ratings in fall 2005.
Maureen Boggs is the director for the Early Care and Education division of the Corporation for Ohio Appalachian Development (COAD), which provides parent referrals, training and a free lending library for community action agencies’ Head Start programs. She said the state ratings give their programs important credibility. Fifteen of COAD’s 17 community action member agencies offer Head Start.
“For a rural community, I think it’s terrific to have such a highly rated program for our families,” Boggs said.
Early childhood care and education is just one area in which COAD offers assistance for its member agencies in Appalachian Ohio. Others include programs for senior citizens, professional leadership and community development, and mirror the diverse services offered by the organization’s community action agencies.
COAD recently established an endowment fund with the Nelsonville-based Foundation for Appalachian Ohio (FAO) to sustain support services and resources for their member agencies. All distributions from the fund will be decided on by a committee composed of agency representatives and will go directly to individual member agency activities.
“We set up the fund to provide a source of financial support for member agencies to give them additional resources to help them change lives,” said Roger McCauley, executive director for COAD.
McCauley commented on the benefits of creating an endowed fund with a community foundation like FAO, which allows the fund to remain and grow in perpetuity.
“I think the fund has great potential, and it will last forever,” McCauley said.
The Foundation for Appalachian Ohio is a regional community foundation serving the 29 counties of Appalachian Ohio. The Foundation attracts contributions for programs and endowment, makes grants for charitable and civic purposes and supports local and regional efforts for positive change. For more information or to learn more about the Foundation’s I’m a Child of Appalachia™ Network (ICAN!), visit www.appalachianohio.org.
For more information about COAD and its member agencies, visit www.coadinc.org.