Cuyahoga County, OH – Step Forward’s Head Start program welcomed representatives from Congresswoman Shontel Brown's office Monday.
David Thompson, the Senior Legislative Assistant for Congresswoman Brown and Akilah Cade, the Senior Case Worker and Field Liaison, met with Julie Stone, the Executive Director of the Ohio Head Start Association. The group toured William Pat Day Early Learning Center and later spoke in-depth with Dr. Thea Wilson, the Vice President of Children and Families and other staff members of Step Forward's Head Start. They discussed the program and its importance to the community.
“It was a pleasure," Dr. Thea Wilson said. "It is a rare occasion when we can tell the Head Start Story from those who receive the services and from those who work directly with the children and families. After the site visit, many subjects were discussed including funding, building back on the teacher shortage, issues with Infant mortality rates and not to mention, balancing the demands from the Office of Head Start and reality.”
Dr. Wilson and the Step Forward staff were also able to share their ideas with the group as Head Start builds toward a better future statewide.
The site tour began at 11 am. Thompson, Cade and Stone first heard from a parent whose children had gone through Early Head Start and Head Start. Brittany Camp called Step Forward’s Head Start curriculum a “game changer,” explaining her son was later diagnosed with Autism, in part because his teachers noticed some developmental delays.
“It just emphasizes how important the work is,” Thompson said. “Hearing from one of the parents that, ‘my first child came here, my second child came here, my third child came here,’ and really seeing that this is a piece of people’s lives really underscores how important it is for us to keep fighting for it in DC.”
Thompson, Cade and Stone explored several classrooms, spoke with William Pat Day's site administrator and assistant site administrator, high-fived some the children in the hallway and heard about what else Step Forward is doing to build a better future for people in Cuyahoga County. Dr. Wilson specifically mentioned Step Forward’s involvement with the Scholar House, a 40-unit apartment complex that will be built to house single college-student parents and their minor children. The complex will be located across the street from Cuyahoga Community College (Tri-C) and next door to William Pat Day Early Learning Center for convenience. It is expected to be complete in 2023.
Dr. Wilson also spoke about the hiring challenges Head Start has been facing. As of August 29th, Step Forward’s Head Start program was still trying to fill about 100 vacancies, 86 of which were in the classroom.
“There are so many ways for the community to be involved but also benefit," Thompson added. "Making sure everyone knows about this amazing service and opportunity is probably the most important thing we can do, and of course, support the funding for it.”
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