Hands On with Head Start

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Before taking on her internship through the Master’s of Social Work program, Beth Hornbaker only had a vague knowledge of Head Start. Since working under Linda Butts ’01-’09m, director at Shippensburg Head Start, the experience has inspired Hornbaker’s to shift her post-graduation goals and consider full-time work with Head Start.

“When I started in this field, I was more passionate about working with adolescents,” she said. “My eyes have been opened to a different population. …The earlier you can get service to children and families, the more impact it can have on their future.”

Hornbaker said she is “getting my feet wet in a lot of different projects” at Head Start. She developed and implemented an advocacy project for high-quality access to pre-K education, thanks to Butts’ support. She works in pre-K classes at James Burd and Nancy Grayson elementary schools. Among other responsibilities, she also creates activities and provides resources to families in the program.

“I can’t say enough good things about Linda,” Hornbaker said. “She’s so extremely open to new ideas, has given me access to new resources, is supportive, and is knowledgeable. She knows how to make it the best experience for them and a good experience for us.”

Dr. Deborah Jacobs, professor and chair of the Social Work and Gerontology Department, said faculty and students in their department have partnered with Head Start for nearly two decades. Butts is a double graduate of the program, which has strengthened their bond.

BSW and MSW students have completed semester- or yearlong field placements at Head Start, allowing students to provide support to the program, spend time in the classrooms, and get to know the children, Jacobs said. Several students volunteer on a regular basis and faculty provide training to Head Start staff.

“Head Start offers the students an opportunity to touch the real world while just walking across the street to the Spiritual Center,” she said. “Many of the Head Start children come from families with serious challenges economically, and sometimes there are other issues such as mental health needs or disabilities that families must deal with while raising small children. Our students read about this in books, but they see it in real life through Head Start.”

Hornbaker said she was surprised by the level of need in the local community. “I can tell hands down this will be the most impactful experience I’ve had. I’m really passionate about their mission and what they’re doing. It’s so important to know the scope of what Head Start does.”