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Local Head Start program sets tone for universal Pre-K talks

The Head Start Consortium of St. Joseph and Elkhart Counties’ is leading a statewide push for early childhood public education.

“we’ve already started something great, now we’re just going to a high level of excellence and we will become a wonderful model for the country,” Kathy Guajardo, Head Start Executive Director.

Soon universal pre-k could be available to all Hoosiers.

South Bend Community Schools Corporation’s outgoing superintendent Carole Schmidt played a big part in the expansion of that program.

In fall, the district utilized title one funds to enroll about 400 children in the head start program.

That virtually got rid of the previous wait-list for the program due to lack of resources in the past.

“We served 340 children this year that probably would never have had a preschool experience,” said Guajardo.

That’s hundreds of children served through this program just in South Bend this year alone.

That’s also hundreds of parents who now have support raising their soon-to-be-students.

“My son was not talking, was barely walking when he started, today he can sing his ABC’s count to 10, almost knows his colors and is running, they did an amazing job,” said parent Korii Boen.

Parents are learning quite a bit, too, thanks to a few helping hands.

“I’ve been learning a lot and it’s impacted my family a great deal,” said parent Henry Bradley.

Additionally, there’s a team of consultants that help out with parenting services.

“We give them some thoughts, give them some tools to become stronger parents and build stronger families,” said consultant Phil Willingham.

This comprehensive program is the kind of initiative folks downstate are looking to implement state-wide.

“I can’t think of a better wrap-around service than Pre-K,” said Glenda Ritz, Indiana Schools Superintendent.

And with $150 million in funding for universal Pre-K being proposed, even more children can be reached.

“It’s going to be lifelong and this is the impact that we’re looking for life long experiences,” said Guajardo.

That extra funding would go a long way.

It costs this consortium about $6,000 dollars to fund one child under the Head Start program.

Right now the program reaches 32 classrooms in the area.

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