Celebrating Head Start’s 55th Anniversary

This past Monday, May 18th, 2020 marked the 55th anniversary of Head Start’s inception. The Head Start community celebrated this remarkable milestone with a virtual gathering, complete with voices of parents and staff from the Head Start field, words of gratitude from members of Congress, and a great big hug across our screens.

Head Start parent and board member Tameka Henry leads the Head Start community in a hug across America.

Hosting the celebration was Tameka Henry, a former Head Start parent and NHSA board member who now chairs the board of directors for her local Head Start program and is also running for school board so she can serve as an advocate for children and families across her community.

After leading the 1,500 live participants in a virtual “Hug Across America,” Tameka took a moment to reflect on the birth of Head Start in 1965.”

“Head Start was created in the midst of that turbulent moment. In fact, largely in response to that turbulent moment,” Tameka reflected.

“From the beginning, Head Start has been a guidepost for families in the face of challenges. Head Start has not only lived through five and a half decades, but grown and thrived for all these years.”

NHSA’s celebration of Head Start’s 55th anniversary is, of course, in part about celebrating all those decades of history and the millions of lives touched by Head Start. In this anniversary year, NHSA is also leading the Head Start community in holding up how Head Start’s legacy lives on — in the current moment of crisis and into the future.

During the community-wide celebration on Monday, NHSA’s Executive Director, Yasmina Vinci, tied together the past, present, and future impact of Head Start’s legacy on our nation’s story.

“I want to share three things I know to be true,” she said.

1. Head Start administrators, teachers, staff, alumni, families, volunteers, supporters, and friends have had an enormous impact on our communities throughout the country for 55 years.

From its roots in the Civil Rights Movement, through ever-changing political climates, economic ups and downs, and the worst of natural disasters, Head Start has been a pillar in communities across the country. We have partnered with millions of families on their paths to success and seen millions of children embark on their journeys through life, boosted by the Head Start Advantage.

2. Right now, today, in this moment, Head Start teachers and staff continue to make that impact. You all are serving as lifelines to our families in a time of crisis.

You are building classrooms in your bedrooms to film virtual circle times. You are driving school buses to drop off meals at families’ homes or setting up grocery pick-ups in your parking lots. You are making possible families’ access to technology and the internet. You are calling families to remind them that you are still there for them. You are parading through neighborhoods, car horns blaring, to make children smile. I am awed every day by the empathy and innovation.

3. Head Start’s future legacy — all the gifts that today’s Head Start students and their families will bring to this world — it bodes well for our country.

There is unending potential in our current Head Start children and families. I have no doubt this generation, and the Head Start generations still to come, will make our world a better place in infinite ways.

These words remind us that over the course of five and a half decades, Head Start has supported communities through many ups and downs, and while the current moment presents new challenges, Head Start remains strong. So we celebrate the history, yes, but we also celebrate the Head Start teachers, staff, families, and friends, who are a part of the Head Start mission today.

NHSA looks forward to celebrating this milestone together with the Head Start community all year long through our signature campaign, Five and Five: A Celebration of Head Start’s Future Legacy.

The Five and Five campaign will connect Head Start’s past — trailblazing alumni in business, the arts, education, service, and science and technology — with Head Start’s future legacy: today’s children and families. All over the country, in programs large and small, Head Start children will be connected with the changemakers and leaders they may become.

Happy 55th anniversary, Head Start community! We look forward to your continued participation in the bright spot of celebration amidst all the challenges we’ll face in the year to come.

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