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By Stacey Menser firstname.lastname@example.org
LeAnne Pool helps provide care for Early Head Start students Maliyah Brown (left) and Hayden Hubbard while their moms are in class at Caldwell County High. The program was started this school year but is at risk of losing its federal funding in September.
Saturday, March 26, 2011
One federal program that local educators believe has had a positive impact on Caldwell County High students is at risk of losing funding. But the community can help save it by contacting lawmakers and asking for help.
The Early Head Start program, which serves teen mothers and their children, began at CCHS this school year with federal stimulus funds allocated to Head Start and Early Head Start programs across the nation.
The program at CCHS is operated with these funds through Audubon Area Community Services and provides in-school childcare for up to eight infants and toddlers whose mothers are students at the school.
The school provides a room for the program, but everything else is funded through federal grant monies, including three staff members.
“We offer so much more than just day care,” said LeeAnn McGregor, who is the head teacher of the Early Head Start program at CCHS.
“We work with the children (ages 6 weeks through 3 years) on fine motor skills as well as emotional, social and cognitive skills. By being here in the program, the children have a routine and consistency. They also have the benefit of being around other kids.”
Not only are the children of the teen mothers benefitting from the program, but also the mothers and their family members as well.
“We work with the families on setting goals, both inside and outside the classroom,” said McGregor. “We also make sure these young mothers have the skills they need to be successful not only in their school work but also as caregivers to their children.”
McGregor said the student mothers spend one class period a day with their children.
“If mom does not come to school, the baby may not come to the program,” McGregor said.
But the goal is to keep these mothers in school.
“One way we help is by taking the children for their immunizations and well child checkups. That way the mothers don’t have to miss out on classroom time,” said McGregor.
The educational opportunities provided to the local teen mothers actually begin in the prenatal stages.
“I make weekly home visits to make sure the expectant mothers are doing everything they are supposed to be doing,” said McGregor. “We also partner with local agencies, such as the HANDS program through the health department, to provide these mothers and their families with as many resources as we can.”
But the resources that are providing for the program will run out in September.
“That is why we want the community to come out and see just how important this program is,” said McGregor.
An open house is planned at the Early Head Start room at Caldwell County High School Thursday, March 31, from 5-7 p.m.
“We invite the entire community to come out, see the faces of the people being served and hopefully contact lawmakers and ask them to keep this program,” said McGregor.
Community members can easily show their support for the program by logging on to http://www.supportheadstart.org.
The website will allow community members to send emails directly to Senators Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul, Rep. Ed Whitfield and President Barak Obama, asking to allocate funds to keep the local program.
“This is a program our students need,” said Renee Williams, Director of Special Education and Prechool/Head Start for the Caldwell School District.
Williams oversees the Early Head Start program for the district, and she feels the need will continue to be there for local students.
While there are no figures on exactly how many CCHS students are currently pregnant, one educator at the school guessed that 16 students are either currently a mother or expecting a child.
“This is our first year to actually have the program in the school. The grant was for two years, but it took the first year to get it up and running,” Williams said. “I think it has been well received, better than we had expected. It has not been intrusive or disruptive to the students at the high school.
“We would like the community to come to the open house and see all the benefits of this program.”
Educators at the high school see the benefits each and every day walking the halls of the school.
“I think it is encouraging to some of our teen mothers. It is allowing them the opportunity to stay in school when they may not otherwise be able to,” said CCHS Guidance Counselor Teresa Scott.
Denise Pool of the district’s COPE Family Center works closely with high school students day in and day out.
“It’s not a problem we want to have, but we do have it,” said Pool speaking of the rate of teen pregnancy.
“What I tell these girls is to finish their high school education. That is the most important thing they can do to provide for themselves and their babies.
“They are raising our next generation. We want them to set a good example for their children by finishing high school, and this program (Early Head Start) allows them to do that.”
Pool said she has heard the personal stories of some of the young mothers who are participating in the program this school year.
“If this program wasn’t here, some of them would have to quit school and stay home,” said Pool. “This program is keeping them in school, and that’s why we need to keep it.”
Community members are invited to attend the Thursday open house and meet the staff of the Early Head Start program, which includes Holly Van Hooser and LeAnne Pool in addition to LeeAnn McGregor.
The community can learn other ways to offer support to the program by contacting McGregor at the high school, 365-8010. In-kinds donations and volunteer opportunities are available.
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