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Getting a Head Start

Thanks to federal continuation funding, the Drake University Head Start program will build on its mission to help underprivileged children prepare for school. This year, due to new, stricter regulations on Head Start programs nationally, receiving funding was a sign of a high-quality Head Start organization.

Head Start is a comprehensive child development program, which serves children from birth to age 5 and their families. The program is child-centered and focuses on increasing school readiness of young children in low-income families.

To receive federal funding for the program, Drake Head Start must write a continuation grant each year showing the government that the program has fulfilled the goals they set and that they have completed necessary requirements. They must also create a budget and submit it for approval.

This year marks the first time Head Start programs were required to meet stricter standards meant to improve education quality. In the past, Head Start organizations would automatically qualify for funding.

“There are new national requirements, so we’re working very hard to make sure we achieve them,” says Georgia Sheriff, director of Drake’s Head Start. “One of our goals is to develop our cultural competence. We are making sure our staff is confident and comfortable working with a diverse group of children and their families.”

Drake is one of less than 50 universities in the country that have a Head Start program, bringing a dimension that many Head Start organizations lack.

“We have an incredible program thanks to our staff,” Sheriff says. “We have the opportunity to work side-by-side with students and professors in the Drake School of Education who are top in their field and can give us so much information on what’s current [in education].”

Drake University Head Start is federally funded to support 926 children and their families in Head Start and Early Head Start programs. In Polk County, Early Head Start programs serve 88 children up to 3 years old and their families. The Head Start programs are offered in a six-county area including Polk, Boone, Story (Ames only), Jasper, Marion, and Warren counties and serve 838 children and families.