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Ezeriah and his sister Arazella

Ezeriah (right) and his sister Arazella pose outside of their Head Start Center in Lincoln.

Just like their “big kid” counterparts, the babies, toddlers and preschoolers enrolled in Community Action Head Start recently enjoyed their very first day of school, too. Ezeriah and his little sister Arazella, two of the program’s enrollees, happily posed for a picture outside of their Head Start center on their first day – excited for yet another great year.

“Head Start is like a home for me and my children,” says their mother, Cassie. “We walk through the hall each day and everyone knows my kids. There’s a lot of love there.”

Cassie first enrolled Ezeriah into the program in 2016 after a string of unsuccessful experiences elsewhere. Ezeriah has a number of special learning needs stemming from genetic and developmental disorders, which made finding adequate early childhood programs challenging at first.

“It wasn’t that other programs were bad, I just don’t think they knew how to handle my son’s needs,” said Cassie. “It was a relief to find Head Start.”

Understanding special needs

Cassie recalls being nervous the first time she took Ezeriah to his Head Start classroom, afraid of being turned away once again.

“I picked him up after his first day expecting to hear bad news,” she said. “I was nervous the whole day, but when I picked him up, his teachers seemed completely unfazed. They even told me he did great. And I knew that we had finally found our place.”

Ezeriah is just one of the 421 children preparing for kindergarten through Community Action Head Start. Many know Head Start in this way – as an early childhood education program that prepares children for school success. But it’s much more.

At its core, Head Start is an anti-poverty program. It’s a program that provides dual-generation supports to both children and their caregivers that target early learning, health, mental health, nutrition promotion and intervention, and intensive family support and education services. It’s a program that gives children everything they need in their first and most important developmental years to reach their full potential.

“The need for the comprehensive services provided through Head Start is evident when understanding the needs of the children we serve. One hundred percent of our enrolled children come from families that live in poverty, are homeless, have a disability, and/or are in foster care,” said Jill Bomberger, Community Action’s Early Head Start and Head Start director. “Our parents come to us with a strong desire to give their children a chance to reach success – to give them the best possible futures.”

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Programs depend on community donations

With over 4,500 children age 5 and under living in poverty in Lincoln alone, the programs respond to a critical need for early childhood education services in our community. Services are provided at no cost to participants, which is significant for families living in poverty. But the programs need your help to accomplish this important work.

“As a community, we have determined that investments in early childhood education are critical to the long-term prosperity of Lincoln,” said Vi See, executive director of Community Action. “We sincerely thank all of our donors and partners for investing in this important work already, and invite all who wish to ensure equal access to high-quality early childhood education to join us.”

Community Action invites individuals, businesses, churches and other friend/family/community groups to support its Head Start programs through sponsorship of a baby/toddler or preschool classroom for the 2018-2019 school year. Sponsorship, which ranges from $1,500 to $2,500 for the year, provides all of the supplies and resources teachers need to support the unique developmental needs of enrolled children. Each sponsor will have the opportunity to stay engaged with their classroom throughout the year and see first-hand how their generous gift positively impacts lives.

For more information, or to schedule a visit to one of Community Action’s Head Start centers, contact Heather Loughman at 402-875-9339 or hloughman@communityactionatwork.org.

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