History of Head Start

  • Project Head Start

    Project Head Start, launched as an eight-week summer program of the Office of Economic Opportunity in 1965, was designed to help break the cycle of poverty by providing preschool children of low-income families with a comprehensive program to meet their emotional, social, health, nutritional, and psychological needs.

    Geneva Head Start was initiated by a group of Genevans who saw the need in our community and wrote grants to gain the initial funding. The first director was Elizabeth Heaton; Anne Acree, Jane Gerling and several others followed until 2014 when Karissa Schutt, a long time teacher and coordinator of Education and Disabilities at Head Start, was tapped for the position. The program started at North Presbyterian Church but eventually merged with the Geneva City School District and was housed at the district offices at the North Street School building for many years. After a realignment of the grade schools in Geneva a few years ago, Head Start/Pre-K was moved to its current location at West Street School which also houses grades K–2.

    Recruiting children age three to school entry age, Head Start was enthusiastically received by educators, child development specialists, community leaders, and parents across the Nation. Head Start now serves approximately 721,000 children and their families each year in urban and rural areas in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and the U.S. Territories - including many America Indian and migrant children.

    In 1969, Head Start was transferred from the Office of Economic Opportunity to the Office of Child Development in the U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, and has now become a program within the Administration of Children, Youth and Families at the Department of Health and Human Services. A well-established, though still an innovative program, Head Start has had a strong impact on communities and early childhood programs across the country. Since 1965, Head Start has served over 13.1 million children and their families.

    From the start, Head Start received strong support from the Federal Government. The Congressional appropriation increased from $96.4 million in fiscal year 1965 to $2.8 billion in fiscal year 1993.

    On Dec. 12, 2007, President Bush signed Public Law 110-134 "Improving Head Start for School Readiness Act of 2007" reauthorizing the Head Start program. This law contains significant revisions to the previous Head Start Act and authorizes Head Start through Sept. 30, 2012. Go to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services web site to view the details of the Head Start Act.

    The program is locally administered by approximately 1,400 community-based non-profit organizations and school systems. Grants are awarded by the Department of Health and Human Services Regional Offices, except for the American Indian and Migrant programs, which are administered in Washington, D.C. The Head Start legislation states that the Federal grant to operate a local Head Start program shall not exceed 80 percent of the approved costs of the program. Twenty percent must be contributed by the community. The non- Federal share (the 20 percent) may be in cash or contributed services.

    Head Start experience has shown the need of the children varies considerably from community to community and that, to serve the need most effectively, programs should be individualized. In addition, experience to data suggests that, when Head Start programs are designed in ways that take into account community resources and the capabilities of the local staff, a program can often be mounted that will improve service for children within present funding levels. Therefore, Head Start permits local Head Start sponsors to provide children with classroom-based or home- based developmental programs.

    Head Start logo

    The Head Start Logo Tells a Story

    • The two squares represent early childhood by suggesting building blocks.
    • The arrangement of the blocks represents stairs by which this can be accomplished.
    • The vertical strips represent the child and parent.
    • The arrow pointing upward represents the direction out of poverty and on to the future. 
    • The colors, red, white and blue represent the United States and the many opportunities it provides for its citizens.