Patti Kingery is the Head Start Administrator for ECMHSP’s Direct Services in North Carolina. This is her experience on opening day at a one of our centers.
After another successful planning season, ECMHSP’s Bladen Head Start Center, located in Ivanhoe, North Carolina, opened its doors on Wednesday, May 18, marking the beginning of its seventh season. Approximately 80 children of migrant and seasonal farmworkers are expected to be served at the Bladen Center this summer, while their parents work in the blueberry fields and packing houses.
“I’m excited about the first day,” said one teacher. “After all the planning and training, I’m looking forward to working with the kids again.”
Families began arriving at the center around 6:45 a.m. on this cool and rainy morning. Teachers greeted each child by name and welcomed them to their classroom. Within an hour or so, the Center was bustling with lots of energy and excitement.
Preschool children were singing songs, playing with new toys, and learning their classmates’ names. Small groups of children were working with teachers on alphabet letters and reading books; other groups were practicing writing letters and drawing shapes. The kitchen staff prepared yummy meals & snacks that the toddlers, in particular, devoured after a busy morning filled with play and learning.
Studies show that, on average, by the time children of low income families enter kindergarten, they already face a significant gap in literacy skills — a gap that often continues to widen as children get older. At East Coast Migrant Head Start Project, staff understand that closing that gap begins with good instruction and engaging activities that begin on day one.
Meanwhile, in another building, Family Services and Health staff from three centers in North Carolina continued assisting new parents with completing applications for Head Start services. The North Carolina – Direct Services team works together each season to ensure children are able to get enrolled as quickly as possible, given the large number of families arriving in the area around the same time. Parents filled the offices and covered decking areas as they completed the necessary activities to get their children enrolled in the Bladen Center.
One parent remarked to a staff person, “My child was so excited when we told him that we’re going back to North Carolina. He loves this center!”
It is an exciting time to be at East Coast Migrant Head Start Project. Similar scenes can be experienced in ECMHSP Head Start centers across North Carolina and other states as centers welcome our families back. It is an honor and a privilege to serve farmworker families by caring for and educating their children while they harvest the fruits and vegetables we enjoy every day.
To see a full list of the locations of ECMHSP Head Start centers, please visit our website: www.ecmhsp.org.