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Happy 53rd Birthday Head Start!

Head Start is the most important social and educational investment in children, families, and communities that the United States has ever undertaken. The Head Start Project was launched in 1965 as a comprehensive child development program. Over the past 53 years, it has provided a window of opportunity for success in life to more than 33 million low-income and other vulnerable children and their families across the United States. Head Start has remained strong in the face of changing political and fiscal climates because it has continually improved the services it delivers to children and families and responded to the changing needs of local communities.

In 1964, President Lyndon Johnson asked Sargent Shriver to convene a panel of child development experts to design a program to help communities meet the needs of disadvantaged preschool children. The panel report – named the Cooke Report after its chair Dr. Robert Cooke – became the blueprint for Project Head Start.

Project Head Start was launched as an eight-week summer program by the Office of Economic Opportunity in 1965. It was designed to help break the cycle of poverty by providing preschool children of low-income families with a comprehensive program to meet their emotional, social, health, nutritional, and psychological needs and support the families in improving their lives. Head Start was envisioned as an eight-week summer program staffed by volunteers from across the nation. The plan was to open the doors to a few thousand children nationwide. When more than 561,000 children showed up, each one was welcomed with open arms, and Head Start was enthusiastically received by education, child development specialists, community leaders, and parents.

Head Start now serves more than one million children and their families each year in urban and rural areas in all 50 States, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Territories, including many American Indian, Alaska Native, and migrant children.

 

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