WASHINGTON, D.C.—In celebration of Head Start Awareness Month, Delegate Gregorio Kilili C. Sablan thanked everyone responsible for the program in the Marianas for their work during the pandemic. The Northern Marianas Public School System operates 10 Head Start and Early Head Start centers on Saipan, Tinian, and Rota, serving 400 children ages 4 and 5 and 70 infants and toddlers from birth to age 3. The centers have remained open this year, although enrollment has been reduced to maintain health safety.
“Our youngest learners in the Marianas and their families have benefited from high-quality education and care services for almost 40 years,” said Sablan. “We are especially appreciative of how, even amid the pandemic, our Head Start and Early Head Start programs have continued to offer these services safely.”
Sablan is chairman of the House Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary, and Secondary Education, which has jurisdiction over the Head Start program nationwide. Earlier this year, the Marianas Head Start Program received $403,000 from the CARES Act to fund distance learning technology and summer programs to make up for lost learning during the pandemic. Another $542,000 was allotted to Marianas Head Start from the American Rescue Plan this year for personal protective equipment, staff hiring, and other adjustments to keep the program running safely.
Sablan said he is looking forward to expanding pre-kindergarten education in the Marianas with passage of the Build Back Better Act, now being drafted in Congress.
“Children who have the opportunity to be in Head Start do better throughout their school years, which is why we want to make pre-K available to everyone, regardless of family economics, “Sablan said. “As chairman of the subcommittee responsible for early childhood education, I have made universal pre-K a priority in the Build Back Better negotiations.”
Marianas Head Start recognized for excellence
“We simply cannot sing the praises of the Marianas Head Start and Early Head Start program too loudly or too often,” said National Head Start Association executive director Yasmina Vinci. “The Marianas’ is the only program in the Outer Pacific to be awarded the Early Head Start-Child Care Partnership Grant; and the program operates for eight hours a day, five days a week for the full calendar year.
“The true heroes, of course, are the Marianas Head Start and Early Head Start workforce, who are doing everything in their power to provide high quality early learning opportunities and to create thriving and healthy communities across the CNMI. Their recent work to encourage mindfulness and support the mental health of staff and teachers during trying times has been an inspiration to Head Start programs nationwide,” she added.
Head Start was launched in 1965 by President Lyndon B. Johnson so that every child, regardless of their family economic circumstances, could receive comprehensive health, nutrition, and education services and have the opportunity to reach their full potential. In the Marianas, the Head Start program has served more than 17,000 children and their families. (PR)