Teaching Our Kids

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Arvelis Byrd, the local Head Start Operations Manager, says the program offers invaluable experience.

"If we didn't have this program, a lot of children wouldn't be able to go to pre-school and become kindergarten ready...."

About 700 young children in Washoe County participate in the region's head start program that offers free pre-school services to children who otherwise would not get any schooling before kindergarten.

It's also available to everyone who meets the low-income eligibility set by the federal government.

"They don't have to be working to participate in our half day program which is from 8-to-11:30 or 1-to-4:30 However, we do have full-day programs and the parent has to be working, in training and/or going to school."
Susan Barnett, a teacher with the program, says many of the children have parents willing to help, but she says they cannot teach their children English... a skill necessary to excel once they reach a Washoe County School classroom.

"They learn through play. So, they're learning how to understand size, relationship, math and science. Writing skills, letters and numbers. Just your basic pre-k skills."

But, they're not only taught basic skills and concepts... this education goes beyond normal schooling.

Because each child comes from what head start classifies as a high risk family, Sherri Rice, the director, says each one deserves a boost.

"We look at it with a holistic approach. We take a look at our children's dental health, their medical health, their social/economic health, and certainly their education."

Barnett agrees, saying these kids need a chance to survive before being thrown into the system.

"If these kids didn't have head start, they would be behind when they get to kindergarten. We want them to at least be equal with the other children, if not ahead."