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From Head Start to Congress

I want to congratulate the National Head Start Association (NHSA) for the launch of this resourceful blog.

I would like to start off by thanking the teachers, community volunteers, health care coordinators and others who help implement the Head Start program in their communities and schools. Head Start’s success is due to the dedication and hard work that they have invested in the future of every Head Start kid.

Being a graduate of the Head Start program and knowing firsthand the benefits, it is my duty to be the lead advocate in Congress. As a child, my mother worried about me entering school because she felt that I was not prepared. It was hard for me to talk to others and I had additional barriers that I did not know how to overcome.  Luckily, my mother was informed of this new program, well it was new when I first enrolled, Head Start.  Soon after I enrolled, my mother started to notice a difference in me, I even started to talk.  I have said this from the beginning and I stand by it, if it were not for Head Start and the dedicated staff who have helped me identify and overcome my obstacles, I would not be where I am today.  Head Start gives children and families the help that they need to become contributing members of society.  Head Start is fundamental to the success that our future generations will reach.

Enrollment in Head Start can break the cycle of poverty that affects too many American families.  Children who are in the program are better prepared to learn and have higher self-esteem and more advanced social behavior when they enter school.  They also score higher on school readiness measures such as verbal achievement, perceptual reasoning, and social competence than children who did not attend preschool.  The most efficient way to reduce the achievement gap between certain affluent and disadvantaged students in the 12th grade is to reduce the achievement gaps that exist in the 1st grade.

Head Start also creates an economic benefit for the country; for every dollar spent on Head Start, the country realizes almost nine dollars in benefits through participants’ increased earnings, decreased welfare dependence, and other factors.

Head Start is an investment in our future and that is why I have been an ardent supporter of the program since I came to Congress in 1997.  Each year, the House debates federal support for this lifeline to children and parents, and I’m always proud to champion Head Start.  Each year, I write a letter to the Chairman of the House Committee on Appropriations to request a full renewal of Head Start funds, and this year, I urged Chairman Rogers to include in the budget $8.1billion for Head Start, as requested by President Obama. These funds will ensure that more children and families will be given the opportunity to succeed, just like I did.

Head Start programs are working hard to meet the needs of low-income families and children, and they rely on public support. I will continue to support Head Start in Congress but I urge everyone to petition their Member of Congress and remind them of the difference that it makes in every life it reaches.  Let us work to maintain Head Start as the success that it is for your children and families.

- Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez

Next week: another Head Start alumna, Loukisha Smart-Pennix