The Origins of Head Start


What began as an 8 week summer experiment to prepare children living in poverty for beginning school in the fall in 1965….is now celebrating its 50th anniversary.  A group of experts at the time came together to create a framework.  It began with a simple sentence which rings true today and has been supported by decades of undeniable research.

“There is incredible evidence that the early years in childhood are the most critical point in the cycle of poverty.”  

One of the experts that sat on the committee was a 34 year old associate professor of psychology, Dr. Edward Zigler.   He later made this comment about Head Start:

“It was new in two exceedingly important ways that are still here.  One is parent involvement.  Before Head Start, there was not the degree of parent involvement in any of the early preschool programs.  The second was comprehensive services.  Health, social services, all the things – I mean, if you’re interested in the development of children, you can’t just stop with education and the planning committee saw that”.

The Head Start model does something that few others do:  it believes in the capacity of parents to realize their dreams despite their circumstances of poverty.  And it believes that parent leadership and governance are some of the elements that support parents in seeing their immense capacity to impact their child’s life.

With that said, above is a picture of our Policy Council Chairperson Robyn Giragosian and Dr. Zigler.  In addition to her leadership and governance in our organization, Robyn is planning her second annual parent conference “Ready, Set Kindergarten” which will bring parents together with school districts as they ready to make the transition.  She recently held at meeting to advocate for painting crosswalks and increased traffic safety in Pawtucket with Councilman Rudd and is also a regional and national parent representative.