Early Head Start classrooms open in Forsyth County

Early Head Start classrooms open in Forsyth County
March 24
00:00 2016
Photo by Tevin Stinson
Early Head Start teacher Nahesha McCatty helps a student wash her hands inside one of four newly renovated classrooms at the Sarah Y. Austin facility located on Big House Gaines Boulevard.



Family Services awarded $2.2 million to bring program to area 

Family Services has officially opened all the funded classrooms for its Early Head Start Program in Forsyth County, the first such program in the county.

The organization opened four EHS classrooms at the Sarah Y. Austin campus, the primary site for the Head Start program that the agency has funded in Forsyth County for 50 years. President and CEO of Family Services Bob Feikema said that without a program like Early Head Start, high quality education is hard to come by for low-income families.

“We are thrilled to have the sites open and serving our community’s youngest children,” said Feikema. “The educational investment into Early Head Start boosts the development of the young brain.”

Family Services opened the classrooms earlier this month.

Late last year, Family Services was awarded $2.2 million in federal funding to bring the first Early Head Start (EHS) program to Forsyth County. Early Head Start serves families with children ages birth through 3 and low-income pregnant women.

Created by the 1994 Head Start Reauthorization Act, the federally funded preschool program is designed to meet emotional, social, health, nutritional and psychological needs. Currently there are 117 children participating in the program at different sites throughout the county.

According to Feikema, the four EHS classrooms at the Sarah Y. Austin campus, 2050 Big House Gaines Blvd., needed extensive renovations in order to meet state and local regulatory compliances. As a result of the remodel, the once-empty rooms have been transformed into state-of-the-art classrooms fit for the care and education of infants and toddlers.

EHS teacher Nahesha McCatty said on Wednesday, March 2, that she is proud to be teaching in the program. A former student in the Head Start program, McCatty mentioned that it is vital to the developmental process.

“Early education is very important,” she continued. “I know sometimes it gets overlooked, but the first years are the most critical years.”

McCatty noted that what she likes most about the program is that she gets to build relationships with the families. She said with home visits and other things included in the program the students feel more comfortable.

“When we visit their homes, we get a chance to see the children in their own environment,” said McCatty. “So when they come to the classrooms, they aren’t as scared because they have seen us in their own homes, which makes the transition a lot easier.”

A family advocate is also provided for each family, and parents are given the opportunity to engage in classroom activities and participate on the decision making body for the program by serving on parent committees.

During a recent visit to the Sarah Y. Austin campus, a number of parents said they were excited that their children have the opportunity to participate in the program. Erika Tillman said she believes the program will build the groundwork and offer skills that will stay with her daughter for a lifetime.

“As a mother, I am very excited and feel that my child will gain from this program, socially, emotionally, and will strengthen her language and learning skills.”

The Forsyth County EHS programs’ waiting list currently has 538 children on it. Feikema told The Chronicle that he is expecting more funds to become available to create more Early Head Start and Head Start programs.

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