Picayune Head Start program celebrate 50 years of success

Published 7:00 am Thursday, September 15, 2016

Children participating in the Head Start Program at the Picayune Complex sing several songs in celebration of the program's 50th anniversary.

Children participating in the Head Start Program at the Picayune Complex sing several songs in celebration of the program’s 50th anniversary.

On Tuesday, the Head Start Program celebrated the 50th anniversary of its services in Pearl River County at the Picayune complex.

Head Start is a program that promotes school readiness to young children from low-income families through agencies in their local community, the office of Head Start website states. The program’s services include early learning, health and family well-being.

In December 1966, the Mississippi Action for Progress Inc. Board of Directors decided that it would offer these services in Pearl River County with an initial allocation of enrollment for 210 children, Gina Anderson, Picayune center administrator, said.

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Many success stories have come out of the Head Start Programs in Pearl River County, several of whom would work under the MAP and local government.

“These kids are our future, and we want to continue that and make sure they get a good head start to better themselves, their families and their local community. This is a great program that has the power to change lives,” Donald Hart, Pearl River County Supervisor and a Head Start graduate, said.

Prior to the opening of the Head Start complex in Picayune in 1981, the first centers were opened in multiple churches in Picayune, including St. Matthew’s Baptist Church, Weems Chapel United Methodist Church, Pleasant Valley Baptist Church and Pilgrim Bound Baptist Church. However, in 1981, the Head Start Picayune complex replaced all of the child care centers located in churches, Anderson said.

“Fifty years this program has been making an impact on children that participated in the past and it is still continuing to do that today,” John Guy, regional manager of Head Start, said. “We take this time of celebration to acknowledge all the success stories that have come through this program and work to make many more for the next 50 years.”

Guy said that the program welcomes all of the support it can get to continue changing the lives of these children and families, urging all former Head Start students to share the importance of the program to other community members, politicians and congressmen to help these children have a level playing field.

“Being a part of Head Start is like being part of a big family,” Dr. Sonya Myers, a graduate of Head Start in Picayune, said. “I am proud and blessed to say that Head Start changed my life.”