ST. FRANCISVILLE — Pamela Jones is a Head Start success story.
In 2006, seeking information about parenting for her two daughters, she turned to Head Start in West Feliciana Parish’s Family Service Center. She’s been part of the program since.
Jones told her family’s story to an audience Friday to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the parish’s Head Start program. Her daughters — Kelsey, a fifth-grader, and Shelly, a second-grader — are honor roll students, and Jones credits Head Start.
She and her husband have used Head Start services for her other children — second-grader Hillary, kindergartner Mallory and 8-month-old Aubrey — and Jones since has served on the advisory council and has worked as a paraprofessional with the program for the past four years.
“I learned so much about parenting, and my girls are proof of that,” Jones said. “Thank you from the bottom of my heart.”
Begun in 1965 as part of President Lyndon Johnson’s “Great Society” initiatives, Head Start provides federally funded programs on health, nutrition, education and family services for eligible low-income families and their children.
West Feliciana Parish offers free Head Start services through the Family Service Center for 3-year-olds, and other programs are available for children as young as 6 weeks old.
Leading off the celebration, West Feliciana High School student Kelsey Scales, a member of the Head Start class of 2001, sang “The Star-Spangled Banner,” and Zaria Carr, class of 2004, recited her 2004 farewell speech from Head Start.
After brief remarks from Family Service Center Supervisor Bridget Plauche and Superintendent Hollis Milton, speakers included former Superintendent Jesse Perkins, who was instrumental in helping launch the program in 1994 “in four classrooms in Bains Lower, three for students and one for administration and storage.”
Alvin Jones, the Louisiana Head Start Association president, praised the program.
“What program gives young parents an opportunity to get an education? Tell me what program does that, and I’ll tell you it’s Head Start,” he said.
Kahree Wahid, with the Louisiana Head Start Collaborative Project, said that 47 years ago, he was in Head Start as a young student, and 20 years ago, he went through the program as a parent. He encouraged parents to take an active role in the early childhood education of their children.
“Every one of them (children) is important,” Wahid said. “We need to give them an equal chance to be successful in life. Shame on us if we overlook any of them, because that one might be the one.”