Head Start float stands for whole program

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The wind chilled weather prematurely extinguished many luminarias decorating the plaza and might have easily discouraged more than just the timid from attending Socorro’s Annual Christmas Electric Light Parade on the evening of Dec. 7. But it didn’t. The curbs of California Street and the Plaza were heavily populated by enthusiastic Socorroans enjoying the night-time parade spectacle.

Polo C’ de Baca/ for El Defensor Chieftain: Parents and other volunteers prep the Head Start Program’s float for Socorro’s yearly Christmas parade held Dec. 7. The float was filled to the brim with joyful children anticipating all the good things that the holiday offers.

The Head Start float, one of about 20 in the parade on the frigid evening was created to acknowledge and represent the ideals, efforts and commitment of Socorroans to the well-being of the youngest children in the community.

Mid-West New Mexico Head Start Program in Socorro center director David Griego was responsible for coordinating efforts to build the float.

“One of the reasons for participating in the parade is to demonstrate that we exist and we do care,” Griego said. “Head Start extends out not to just promoting school readiness for children but we try to promote ‘family well-being’ by encouraging parents to participate in every aspect of a child’s every day life.

“Often parents have a tendency to get to a point where they let children be on their own so we try to get parents continually involved.”

The float was awarded the prize for “Best Illuminated Float” in the parade. The float was of a simple design. A tree strung with multicolored lights illuminated the faces of children bundled up and bravely bearing the fierce elements during the long slow parade ride on such a chilly evening. The cherub like clusters of children occupying the float huddled for warmth drew audible emotional responses from onlookers, especially proud parents.

Among the benefits of the program Head Start serves to introduce developing minds to a diverse world that awaits them outside their immediate homes. It does so in ways that assures that the children’s first impressions are fun filled, friendly and positive, Griego said

Head Start is a federal program that promotes the school readiness of children ages birth to 5 from low-income families by enhancing their cognitive, social and emotional development, the web-site for The Office of Head Start says.

Also according to the web-site, over a million children are served by Head Start programs every year, including children in every state and territory and in American Indian and Alaskan Native communities.

Since 1965, the beginning of the “war on poverty,” nearly 30 million low-income children and their families have received these comprehensive services designed to augment school readiness.

The program, which is funded through the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, also provides social services for families. President Lyndon B. Johnson’s “war on poverty” legislation began by opening two thousand child development centers to address nearly half the preschool children living in poverty.

The emphasis was never on just pre-schooling, the site says. The program addresses comprehensive services such as; health screening, nutrition, social services and new careers for the parents helping them get out of the cycle of poverty.

Fundamental to the philosophy of the Head Start Program is the concept that children are able to lean at a very early age. Head Start has become the great equalizer for children of minimal opportunities.

“It’s important because in today’s world, education has to start at the earliest of ages,” Griego said. “That’s what we do. This float is actually a symbol of what we promote. We strive to create a family type of atmosphere with our agency.” The state Head Start web-site can be found under “New Mexico Community Action Program.”

Griego said he encourages everyone to visit the Head Start Center at 239 Garfield Avenue where they take applications for children 3 to 5 years old.