Head Start director Carmen Stewart discusses the Head Start program that provides children and their families free health, education and development services around the Vermillion community on this week’s Credit Hour podcast.
Head Start has been housed within the University of South Dakota for the past 40 years. It is federally funded to help low-income families by offering education for parents and age-appropriate education for children ages 0-3 and 3-5.
“The purpose of Head Start is to provide high-quality early childhood services to children for families who can’t afford it,” Stewart said. “Those children may be at risk and may not be as successful in school as children who come from more affluent families.”
The partnership between Head Start and USD has seen successful outcomes.
“There are opportunities for our program to work with experts on campus in a variety of fields: speech and language development, education, occupational and physical therapy, dental hygiene--we’re so fortunate to have experts if we need advice on our programming,” Stewart said. “They support us and they use our program to support research.”
Instructors also often implement service-learning in their coursework so students can gain hands-on experience working with children.
Over the years, the program has expanded, and it now provides services at no cost to children and families in Clay, Lincoln, Union and Turner counties. Stewart said Head Start is a community-based program, and it focuses on being responsive to the needs of the children and families that reside here.
“Head Start has provided early childhood education in South Dakota for over 50 years,” said Michael Ewald, host of Credit Hour. “Carmen explains what the program offers and, most importantly, why it matters.”