Since 1998, UAMS has administered the Head Start program in Pulaski County, Arkansas. Our Department of Pediatrics oversees over 1,000 Head Start and over 30 Early Head Start children, and these programs also serve the interests of many more in the community.
The primary purpose of the national Head Start and Early Head Start programs — to increase the school readiness of low-income children — is a perfect match for our missions at UAMS: to teach, to search, to serve. In Pulaski County, UAMS is offering more than the traditional Head Start services; the UAMS Head Start program is highly successful at helping our students prepare for school. As Arkansas’ only teaching hospital, we strive to promote educational opportunities in our community, and we use our Head Start program to promote the health of our students, families and community.
Educating the Community
In addition to educating children, the UAMS Head Start program provides educational opportunities to many others. This program provides service and learning opportunities to our students enrolled in the UAMS colleges of Nursing, Medicine, Health Related Professions and Public Health. These graduate students work with our Head Start children and, as a result, gain valuable experience in dealing with children. This hands-on experience prepares our future medical providers for the challenges they may face in practicing medicine. We also provide tuition discounts to help our Head Start employees and their family members continue their education at higher education institutions affiliated with UAMS.
Ensuring a Health Community
UAMS’ leadership in this national program is demonstrated by our commitment to using the Head Start program in promoting the health and welfare of our community. Children enrolled in our program and their parents have access to health, nutrition, dental and mental health services from UAMS and other sources. These services, provided by our students and faculty, range from basic medical screening services to consultations with medical specialists.
Our program currently operates 20 Head Start centers and two Early Head Start centers throughout Pulaski County. All centers operate five days per week, a minimum of six hours per day. The Head Start Program serves children 3 to 5 years old, 166 days each year. The Early Head Start centers serve 40 children, ages birth to 3 years, 220 days each year. These programs serve children of low income families who are most in need of services. We work collaboratively with the three public school systems within Pulaski County. Through our partnership with the Little Rock School District, Head Start eligible students are enrolled in the district’s pre-K program, and the UAMS Head Start Program provides these children with enhanced or wrap-around services.
“My mom was a teacher’s aide with Head Start at the Kramer School. I spent a lot of time there during the summer when I was in junior high, playing basketball and watching the kids get the kind of help they needed. Head Start gave them a leg up, the kind of support that made a difference. It offered them a nurturing environment, and it had a long-term impact on those kids. I still see some of them from time to time, and they remember my mother and how much she meant to them growing up. Head Start is a very positive program and always has been.”
– Sidney Moncrief former NBA All-Star and head coach of the Fort Worth (Texas) Flyers of the NBA Development League
When Pulaski County was in jeopardy of losing funding for the Head Start Program, UAMS reached out to offer our leadership skills by serving as the primary investigator for the grant. The Head Start budget has been cut as much as it can without effecting programs and services. UAMS is glad to continue to provide leadership for this program, but Head Start must be have standalone financing because this program is not part of the UAMS budget. To allow us to continue the critical mission of giving children and their families a head start on school and life, please contact Melony Goodhand by phone (501-686-5670) or by e-mail (GoodhandMelony@uams.edu).