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Head Start celebrates 50 years

DAILY LEADER / KATIE WILLIAMSON / Dozens of balloons were released by Head Start students in celebration of the 50 year anniversary of the program.

DAILY LEADER / KATIE WILLIAMSON / Dozens of balloons were released by Head Start students in celebration of the 50 year anniversary of the program.

On Oct. 17, students and administration from Lindsey Head Start Center gathered in Bicentennial Park for celebration of the 50th Anniversary of the Head Start Program. Celebration activities included releasing balloons and a day of fun and games in the park.

Founded in 1964 to help communities meet the educational needs of disadvantaged preschool children, the Head Start Program was designed to help break the link between poverty and education.

“Some kids just don’t get the same advantages as others,” Sholit Pendleton, Head Start Center teacher of 23 years, said. “Here they get free breakfast, lunch and dinner. Plus the kids get to be social.”

The center also offers eye and dental screenings for the kids they service.

Lindsey Head Start Center serves 110 children from the Brookhaven/Wesson area. Children start at the center at three years old and stay for two years before graduating into a kindergarten program. The center is split into six units, or classrooms, with classes of 15 three-year-olds and 20 four-year-olds.

“I love teaching. I know parents can’t teach everything, and I fill in the gap,” Pendleton said.

Pendleton doesn’t see herself as only a teacher though. She also serves as a friend, counselor and colleague to the class of four-year-olds she manages.

“Maybe a kid has had a bad night at home. I notice them sitting back keeping to themselves and I just sit with them and talk to them. They’ll tell you a lot of things you don’t want to hear, but by the time they’re dancing, singing and playing, they’ve forgotten all about what happened at home,” Pendleton shared. “Everybody is raised different. That doesn’t mean that I can’t get on their level and treat them like I’d want to be treated.”

Located on 624 E Monticello St in Brookhaven, Lindsey Head Start Center continues the program’s legacy of providing the stimulation and education support some children need prior to kindergarten. Inside the facilities a rainbow of colors can be found amidst a cast of wonderfully illustrated characters who dance on the walls of each unit’s room.

“To me, kids learn better by doing physical things. Instead of just listening to me tell them things, they learn by being involved and using their own minds and imaginations.” Pendleton said, giving insight on her teaching style.

Her style seems to align with the principles of the Head Start program which values each child’s contribution to their own learning process.

Pendleton said when some children come to the center who don’t know letters, numbers or colors but a few weeks down the road are able to identify the things that used to give them trouble, it makes her smile and gives her the biggest feeling of happiness.

“I don’t think I could just not do this,” She said.