“Head Start is the most important social and educational investment in children, families and communities that the United States has ever undertaken (www.paheadstart.org)”.
Shippensburg University has been operating the Shippensburg Head Start Program since 1971 as a component of the institution’s commitment to public service, as well as to provide University students in several degree programs the opportunity to apply classroom theory in a real-life community and family-based educational, human services organization. The Program is governed by the Shippensburg University Council of Trustees, which has the legal and fiscal responsibility for administering the Program and shares decision-making with the Policy Council. Policy Council is comprised of no less than 50% of current Head Start parents who are elected by parents at the center level.
The Shippensburg Head Start Program is funded to serve a total of 130 children who meet Federal Income Guidelines (60 children in Home-Base and 70 children in Center Base). The design and approach of the Shippensburg Head Start Program integrates researched evidence based practices, materials, curriculums, assessments tools, screening tools, parenting programs, trainings, performance standards and community support from various agencies to meet the needs of preschool children and their families. The Program provides services in four center-based classrooms (16-18 children each), and six home-based groups (caseload of ten families, as many as twelve children) in a service area encompassing the Shippensburg, Newburg, Newville, and Carlisle areas.
All children receive multiple screenings when they are enrolled so that the Shippensburg Head Start Program may develop a plan for success. Some of the screenings conducted are cognitive, mental health, nutrition, health, speech and language. Parent engagement is an important part of the program. The philosophy of the Shippensburg Head Start program is that the parent(s) is the child’s first teacher and the home is the primary learning environment with major goals to engage with the child’s parent(s) to provide an intentional education and social program throughout the day or home visit in order for the child to be successful in school and life.
The Shippensburg Head Start Program provides for the development of each child’s cognitive and language skills by providing opportunities and experiences in the areas of development in the following domains; language development, literacy, mathematics, science, creative arts, social/emotional development, physical health and development and approaches to learning using research based curriculums.
All enrolled children receive developmentally and culturally appropriate curriculum and learning environment. Benefits to children and families are an increase in physical, social/emotional and cognitive child development. The community wide benefit includes higher cognitive skills of children resulting in school readiness, more parents skilled at parenting, and more parents involved in their child’s education and prepared to advocate for their child. On the National level, Head Start has been making a difference in the lives of children and families for 45 years. All Head Start Programs have the same stringent regulations and accountability not only to government but to their communities. Head Start services are an investment in the future of children, families and communities.