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Hacking Head Start

During the two days before NHSA’s 43rd Annual National Head Start Conference, 50 committed and energized members of the Head Start community will gather in Nashville for the first ever Head Start hackathon. In fact, we believe this will be the very first hackathon in the early childhood world! Find out more at

We asked Yasmina Vinci to respond to a few questions about this fascinating and strange new event:

What is a Hackathon?

The term “hackathon” was originally used for collaborative computer programming sessions and is inspired by the meaning of “hacking” as a way to tinker with and tweak systems - not necessarily technological - to creatively overcome constraints and limitations. It can also be described as a marathon brainstorming session in which participants form teams of 3-5 individuals and compete for prizes. After being presented with a key problem to tackle, teams take out their laptops, post-its, pencils and paper - and whatever else is needed - and dive right in.

Our hackathon will include a diverse group of Head Start program directors, teachers, parents, alumni, donors, and experts, as well as federal and state-level government representatives. They will form interdisciplinary teams to tackle several strategic challenges through collective learning, debate, games, and workshops. At the end of the two days, each group will present its ideas and solutions to a panel of distinguished judges who will present the winning teams with a prize.

NHSA is committed to take the winning solution and work toward bringing it to life! And, of course, we’ll keep everyone informed of the progress!

Why is NHSA hosting a hackathon?

After celebrating our 50th year anniversary last year, we are poised and eager to invigorate our narrative with existing communities and position Head Start toward serving future generations. This requires refining and raising Head Start’s profile among a larger audience -- in particular, Head Start parents - most of whom are members of Generation Y (millennials). We will need to articulate and promote our mission and relevance through the media, social networks, and communication channels of our digital society.

What is something concrete that you hope comes of this experience?

At NHSA, we work constantly to support a strong and committed Head Start community. Working together, we advocate effectively and we share success, failures, innovations and best practices.

I hope this hackathon gives us an innovative marketing program that will resonate with the newest generations of Head Start families -- the digital natives, invigorate Head Start’s thought leadership, and expand the number of alumni who want to be a part of this vibrant and engaged community!

What do you hope that others gain from a hackathon experience?

I hope others will sense the tremendous excitement growing in our community about the potential for the Head Start model in the years to come. These two days of inspiration, ideation, and experimentation will resonate across our community for years to come.

Want to Join us in Nashville?

If you would like to participate in the Head Start Hackathon, there are a few public slots that have not been filled. Please contact Mary Sprute at