The National Head Start Association (NHSA) is a non-partisan, not-for-profit organization committed to the belief that every child, regardless of circumstances at birth, has the ability to succeed in life. NHSA is the voice for more than 1 million children, 200,000 staff and 1,600 Head Start grantees in the United States. Since 1974, NHSA has worked diligently for policy changes that ensure all at-risk children have access to the Head Start model of support for the whole child, the family and the community.
NHSA's vision is to lead - to be the untiring voice that will not be quiet until every vulnerable child is served with the Head Start model of support for the whole child, the family and the community - and to advocate - to work diligently for policy and institutional changes that ensure all vulnerable children and families have what they need to succeed. NHSA's mission is to coalesce, inspire, and support the Head Start field as a leader in early childhood development and education.
Head Start began in the summer of 1965, serving more than 500,000 children in a national commitment to children in poverty by providing comprehensive services to help prepare them and their families to begin school. Over the next fifty years, more than 31 million children have attended Head Start, and extensive research documents how the program has enabled them to succeed in school and in life.
Mirroring the history of the Head Start program, NHSA was formed quickly and quickly grew to scale. The idea for a Head Start Association was born in 1973 in Kansas City, Missouri, at a national conference for directors of community action agencies. A handful of Head Start program directors attending the conference discussed the need for a national association that could advocate specifically for the Head Start community in Congress. They were concerned by the Nixon Administration's threat to eliminate community action agencies, which, then, sponsored the majority of Head Start programs.
The idea for a Head Start Association was born in 1973 in Kansas City, Missouri, at a national conference for directors of community action agencies.
This core group of directors met with other Head Start directors from across the country, pooled their resources, and formed the National Directors Association. The directors passed a resolution to invite Head Start parents to form an affiliate association. At this request Head Start parent delegates from each state met in September 1974 to form the Head Start Parents Association. At a January 1975 meeting, non-director staff members formed the third affiliate association, the Head Start Staff Association. Later, a fourth association, Friends of Head Start, was formed.
The Third Annual Head Start Conference was held in May 1976, in New Orleans, Louisiana. This meeting represented the combined efforts of the four associations and participation was overwhelming. The National Head Start Association was catapulted into a new level of mass conference planning. At the Fourth Annual Meeting held May 19-22, 1977 in El Paso, Texas, the first official officers of NHSA were elected. Rosalie Carter-Dixon of Newton, Massachusetts was the first president.
The members of the NHSA's four affiliate associations voted to merge into one association on June 7, 1990. In the new structure, Head Start directors, parents, staff members, and friends became members of one association, distinguished by a different membership class designation. The new structure simplified the association's structure, unified its members, and helped clarify its mission of bringing together all members of the Head Start community. Now, each of the geographic Head Start regions and as well as the American Indian/Alaska Native and Migrant and Seasonal communities sent four members to the NHSA Board: one parent, one staff member, one director, and one friend.