OCO Helping Preschool Children get a Head Start

FULTON, NY – For almost four decades Oswego County Opportunities Head Start program has helped thousands of children prepare for kindergarten.

Kaylee, a participant in Head Start / Universal Pre-K class in Phoenix, makes a stepping stone with her dad, Billy, during the Dads Take Your Child to School Day.
Kaylee, a participant in Head Start / Universal Pre-K class in Phoenix, makes a stepping stone with her dad, Billy, during the Dads Take Your Child to School Day.

Head Start, which is available for children age 3 and 4, operates throughout the school year and provides children with comprehensive education, health, and nutrition services.

Thanks to a recent grant from the Department of Health and Human Services the OCO Head Start program will continue to prepare children for kindergarten well into the future.

Reliable studies have found the benefits children reap from participation in Head Start have positive, long-term effects such as lower rates of grade repetition, special education placement, and increased high school graduation rates for Head Start graduates.

With a goal of school readiness Head Start’s teachers and staff combine hands-on learning, active play, and nutritious meals and snacks to create a well-rounded learning experience.

Head Start boasts an education staff of 11 teachers with a minimum of a Bachelor’s Degree, many of which also hold certification in early childhood development or a Master’s degree in Literacy Education.

Additional staff includes teaching assistants,  family advocates that provide parents and caregivers with information, support, and referrals to other services, nurses, a special services manager that assists parents and teachers, and cooks that work with a registered dietician to prepare USDA approved nutritionally balanced menus with food that is appealing to the children’s eyes as well as their taste buds.

“At Head Start we are totally committed to providing quality programming for our children and their parents and creating an enjoyable atmosphere that’s conducive to learning. Our teachers utilize a research based curriculum that makes learning fun, and there is ample time for physical and recreational activities,”said director of OCO Education Services Beth Kazel. “For our staff Head Start is much more than a job, it’s a passion.  It’s one reason why Head Start is so successful. Our staff believes in our mission and the comprehensive nature of Head Start.”

Parents also play an important role in the Head Start experience.

Recognizing that parents are a child’s first and primary teacher, parents and caregivers are encouraged to be involved in all areas of their children’s education and to continue activities such as reading, math and art at home.

Parents may volunteer to serve on policy groups, attend education workshops, assist in the classroom and become engaged in their children’s education.

“Parents have always been a key factor in Head Start’s success. We work very closely with parents.  They are a major part of the decision making process. Our Policy Council includes parents from each center and is active in developing academic and social goals. The home environment is a child’s first learning environment and their parents their first teachers. We want parents to know that together we can make our program and our children even more successful,” said Kazel.

Head Start currently serves 239 children and maintains sites in Cleveland, Phoenix, Fulton, Oswego, and Williamstown as well as a home-based program in Mexico.

Provided at no cost to families, Head Start is available to families with incomes at or below federally set guidelines and accepts applications for enrollment year round.

Those interested in learning more about Head Start, or applying for enrollment, may call 315-598-4711, toll free at 1-800-359-1171, or visit www.oco.org

OCO is a private, non-profit agency that has been supporting communities throughout Oswego County since 1966. A member agency of the United Way of Greater Oswego County, OCO provides more than 50 vital services throughout 80 separate locations.