The History of Head Start
The Head Start program was created in 1965, during the “War on Poverty.” President Lyndon B. Johnson tasked Sargent Shriver to develop several initiatives aimed towards the elimination of poverty. Head Start was born out of a focus on education. Head Start started off as an eight (8) week summer program. Its goal was to get children ready for elementary school. Head Start is currently a year-round program with many options available based on the needs of a community. Since its beginning in 1965, Head Start has served more than thirty (30) million children along with their families.
Locally, Ashtabula County Head Start was also created in 1965. The local program was funded by monies received from the Church Women United group in Ashtabula. Seventy-five (75) children attended a two-week summer program. Since then, the Head Start program has expanded to be a full year program serving 400 children and their families each year.
Along the way, there have been a few different variations on how the Head Start program has been offered. In 1966, the program continued as a summer program. In 1970, the program became a full year, part day program. At that time, the program primarily provided in-home services that included parenting education and activities for children. In 1986, the Head Start program expanded to offer services throughout Ashtabula County.
In 2010, Ashtabula County Head Start began using an option called “Combination Option.” What this option offers is a mix of time in a classroom setting along with in-home services. As the decade progressed, the Head Start program evolved into a primarily classroom-based preschool. The program still offers in-home services for mostly children under the age of 2 or families that just prefer that option, but the majority of the program takes place in a classroom these days. Head Start maintains a classroom in almost every school district in Ashtabula County. This helps when a child is transitioning from preschool to Kindergarten because they are already somewhat familiar with the school building.
The Ashtabula County Head Start office has occupied many different locations over the years. In the beginning, operations were run from a small house. Over time, operations have been moved to a small office building on Lake Avenue in Ashtabula and finally landing in its current location of the former Sears Building on Main Avenue in downtown Ashtabula.
The Head Start program is a program of Ashtabula County Community Action Agency (ACCAA). Other programs run by ACCAA include 2-1-1, WIC, Weatherization Assistance, Senior Nutrition, Energy Assistance (HEAP/PIPP), and the New Hope Housing Program.