"The Head Start program has been wonderful for my family," Sara Montgomery said.
For Montgomery, the Head Start program at Douglass Community Services, a United Way Agency, has done much more than support her children, but support her entire family.
Montgomery, who has lived in Hannibal her entire life, has three children. Her twins, John and Riley, are now 12, but they benefited from the Head Start program when they were little. Now, her 3-year-old daughter, Isabella, is part of Head Start.
Head Start is a nationwide child development and education program provided at no cost that serves prenatal women and children from birth to age 5. Families must meet income eligibility guidelines or meet certain criteria in order to be part of the program.
Children enrolled in Head Start participate in classroom experiences where children are prepared for kindergarten. Children learn how to interact with their peers and their health and nutritional needs are met. Families also can benefit from home-based support through Head Start.
Montgomery knows her daughter Isabella has greatly benefited by being part of Head Start.
"She knows her colors, numbers, ABCs, and nursery rhymes," said Montgomery. "When I said I wanted to work on potty training the girls at Head Start were ready to help us with that."
Without Head Start, Montgomery wouldn’t be able to work as the cost of childcare would eat up her paycheck.
"Head Start isn’t a daycare, but kids can be part of the program during the day," Montgomery said. "This lets parents work."
Montgomery knows her daughter receives great care and support at Head Start. She is so thankful for all her daughter has learned through the program.
"They want kids to be kindergarten ready," she said.
When Montgomery isn’t working during the day, she volunteers through Head Start.
"We are our child’s voice," she said. "The program makes sure we know that."
In addition to volunteering at the Head Start Center where her daughter is part of the program, Montgomery also volunteers on Head Start’s Policy Council and Advisory Committee. Through these volunteer roles, she has gone to Jefferson City to advocate for the program at the capital.
For Montgomery, she has found a great support network through Head Start.
"It’s not just about the kids, it’s about the family, too," she said.
Staff at the program have connected her with other resources in the community that have benefited her family.
In Lewis, Marion, Monroe, Ralls, and Shelby counties, which are served by the United Way of the Mark Twain Area, nearly 300 children benefit from Head Start programs.
Douglass Community Services and the Head Start program will benefit from the 2019-20 United Way GIVE HOPE Campaign. To learn more about United Way, visit http://unitedwaymta.org or call 573-221-2761. To learn more about Douglass Community Services and Head Start visit http:// douglassonline.org/ or call 573-221-3892.