Head Start alumni both young and old gathered together Thursday, July 23, 2015 to commemorate 50 years of Head Start in Waldo County. The event opened with a welcome from Waldo Community Action Partners’ Executive Director, Keith Small, and a word from Rep. Erin Herbig. “I got into politics to work on economic development opportunities for young Mainers because I grew up around here and know how challenging things can be at times,” she shared. “I’ve been in office for five years and I know more and more now the best way to improve your own economic situation is always education… I’ve always supported Head Start and I just really appreciate everything that you all do and I think it’s wonderful that you all came out today because it is all about family and about education and that’s how we move communities forward.” Following her remarks, Rep. Herbig presented Executive Director Keith Small with a heartfelt letter, which read:
“Dear Friends, I wish to congratulate you all on 50 years of exceptional service to the children, families, and people of Waldo County. In 50 years time, you’ve touched many people’s lives and have enriched our communities. The Waldo County Head Start program is an integral part of enhancing children’s educational, social, and emotional development and supporting families. This program is the reason that many of our local children are more prepared for school, healthier, and ready for whatever comes their way. Nationally, Head Start has been the career model for providing the whole child an opportunity for success in school and life. Since the summer of 1965, more than 32 million children have benefited from Head Start comprehensive services and have become business women and men, professors, teachers, lawyers, mayors, members of congress, athletes, foundation presidents, grammy winning musicians, poets, and parents. It is no different here. The stories of former head start students are inspiring and show us what can happen when we support our children and families. Again, congratulations on all your successes here and here’s to 50 more years. Best regards, Erin Herbig.”
Faith Garrold, who was a Head Start Director for WCAP starting in 1998, expressed similar sentiments. Having gone from being a Head Start Director to the Assistant Superintendent of Schools for R.S.U. #3, Garrold saw firsthand the impact Head Start’s services in Waldo County. “Head Start has always had a very familiar place in my heart… I saw the results of Head Start children coming into our school system,” she said. “Over the 5 years that I was here, I had a lot of personal experiences. As a program, we had a lot of important experiences. Not least of which is we were fortunate enough to go to Washington D.C. and pick up a Quality Program Award from the Federal government.” Despite having been given the opportunity to fly to Washington and see the program she had been leading receive such an award, it was a different moment which Garrold remembered as the one she was most proud of. “At Unity Head Start, we admitted the first severely handicapped child,” she told onlookers. “This was a child who had to be tube fed. She came with a nurse to help her but the program just accepted her as they did every other… I think that’s such an important part of Head Start.”
After a musical performance from a past Head Start father, event attendees took the floor and swapped stories about their experiences with Head Start. Shawn-Nee Johnson, a mother who started her involvement with the Head Start program in 2012 said that she didn’t necessarily have a memory to share so much as a moment. After a challenging morning getting her son off to school, she could not believe the excitement and enthusiasm her son returned from home from Head Start with day after day. Moxi Palmer, who was a Head Start child 20 years ago, said that Head Start encouraged her to learn and keep learning.
In typical reunion fashion, attendees were invited to revisit the classroom. WCAP’s Early Head Start socialization classroom, which was extended as an addition to its Belfast Head Start Center in 2012 soon filled with Head Start parents, staff, and children both past and present. “It looks so different now,” Austin Merando, who attended Belfast Head Start in 2001 reminisced. “I miss the loft.”
Later in the programming, a personal video message from Senator Susan Collins was shown, congratulating WCAP’s Head Start Program on having served more than 5,000 children since it began. Head Start was the first program of WCAP when it was first incorporated in 1965, back when the agency was known as Waldo County Committee for Social Action. The agency as a whole will celebrate its 50th anniversary officially on Thursday August 27, 2015 at the Belfast Shrine Club with a family fun carnival in the afternoon from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. The family fun carnival is free and open to the public.