Thanks to the hard work of a Family Advocate and the members of a Male Involvement group she started last year, 52 children enrolled in Oswego County Head Start in Phoenix, New York were able to celebrate the raising of a new flagpole outside their center last Friday.
As we all know, Head Start provides more than just educational tools – with services like dental exams, vision tests, and nutrition programs, Head Start’s mission is to address the needs of the whole child. Providing family engagement is also an incredibly important tool for Head Start to get children ready not just for school, but for life.
Liz Liberti works as a Family Advocate at Phoenix Head Start to get the program’s families involved. With this goal in mind, Liz started a new Male Involvement group and recruited five founding members: four fathers and one grandfather. The group began as a weekly gathering in which everyone could talk about ways to help their children get the most out of the Head Start program. This quickly evolved into a discussion of ways the group could give back to Head Start by volunteering and getting involved.
“Without the dads pounding the pavement,” Liz said, “this just wouldn’t have been possible. This was the first big achievement of the male involvement group, and it’s a great example for future members.”
With a community partnership funding the flagpole, the Male Involvement group was also able to get other organizations to donate topsoil, mulch and flowers for a small garden, which the members of the center’s wellness committee were happy to help get ready on donated time. After months of hard work by all involved, a flag-raising ceremony was performed on Friday, May 16.
Despite the occasional rain shower, the ceremony had a great turnout! Liz and the group members invited a number of community members, including men in uniform from the American Legion, firefighters, the town supervisor, a representative from New York State Senator Patty Ritchie’s office, and Oswego County Head Start’s Executive Director. Throughout the day, the kids learned the national anthem and about the different parts of the U.S. flag.
“It wasn’t hard to get the men excited about the project,” Liz said. “They just care. They’re really great role models for all of the kids in our program.”
So what’s in store for the new male involvement group next year? Four of the five members will be leaving as their children move on to Kindergarten, but Liz isn’t worried. “With one member left we’ll work again next year to recruit more fathers. It won’t be hard. These families truly care.”