This Monday, May 18th is the anniversary of President Johnson's announcement in the White House Rose Garden of the creation of Project Head Start.It was created as one of the programs in that era’s war on poverty and started as an 8-week summer program for children whom would be entering school in the fall. Many of these first program children had never been in a classroom setting before, did not have access to books, and had never experienced the structure of a classroom, so before Head Start they would often be far behind their more affluent peers and would struggle academically. That first year, they served more than 560,000 children. The success of that first summer lead to the program becoming a year-round early childhood education program.
This is part of the speech given May 18th, 1965: "We set out to make certain that poverty's children would not be forevermore poverty's captives. We called our program Project Head Start.
The program was conceived not so much as a Federal effort but really as a neighborhood effort, and the response we have received from the neighborhoods and the communities has been most stirring and the most enthusiastic of any peacetime program that I can remember.
Today we are able to announce that we will have open, and we believe operating this summer, coast-to-coast, some 2,000 child development centers serving as many as possibly a half million children.
This means that nearly half the preschool children of poverty will get a head start on their future. These children will receive preschool training to prepare them for regular school in September. They will get medical and dental attention that they badly need, and parents will receive counseling on improving the home environment.
This is a most remarkable accomplishment and it has been done in a very short time. It would not be possible except for the willing and the enthusiastic cooperation of Americans throughout the country.
I believe this response reflects a realistic and a wholesome awakening in America. It shows that we are recognizing that poverty perpetuates itself.
Five and six year old children are inheritors of poverty's curse and not its creators. Unless we act these children will pass it on to the next generation, like a family birthmark."
If you'd like to celebrate with us, we are hosting Rose Garden Celebrations at each of our centers on Monday at 12:20. We will plant rose bushes to commemorate our first 50 years and head into the next 50!