DEC. 27, 2005 | With Christmas only a few days away, children in the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) Head Start program got an early visit from some of Santa’s elves.
UAMS operates 27 Head Start centers in Pulaski County, providing early childhood education to about 1,000 low-income children. This holiday season marked the first time that each classroom was “adopted” by UAMS employees and departments and other groups in central Arkansas. Participants provided gifts for children in the program.
“We are so honored that the community stepped up to help, especially the many people at UAMS who gave their time and money to fill the wish lists for these kids. I can’t begin to describe how excited they were to receive their presents,” said Alison Rose, training development specialist with the UAMS Head Start program.
Among those participating in the Adopt-a-Classroom program were Department of Pediatrics employees Emily Tedder, office manager in Community Pediatrics, and Kelly Jarratt, Ph.D., psychology fellow in Pediatric Psychology.
“We chose to adopt the Dixie Head Start classroom rather than do an office gift exchange this year,” Tedder said. “Once people found out what we were doing, employees from other departments wanted to get involved too.”
Tedder and Jarratt delivered gifts to 17 children at the Dixie center in Rose City, where the children greeted them by singing “Jingle Bells,” “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” and “We Wish You a Merry Christmas.” They also were presented a card featuring a handprint of each of the 17 preschoolers. Earma Pleasant is director of the Dixie center.
“It’s all about the children,” Jarratt said. “So many people are in need. We hope that this will make Christmas a little more special for these kids.”
Christopher Hickman, a research assistant in the Department of Psychiatry of the UAMS College of Medicine adopted a classroom with his colleagues in the Division of Health Services Research.
“The smiles on the children’s faces and the joy in their voices reaffirmed that Christmas is a holiday about giving, and all children should experience the joy of receiving,” Hickman said.
Cookie Tedder, human resources manager in the Department of Pediatrics, who with her husband, Steve, adopted a classroom, said it was one of the best things the couple has ever experienced.
“To see the look on the children’s faces and to get down on the floor with them and interact on their level was so rewarding. This is what Christmas is all about. We are already planning next year’s party with them,” Cookie Tedder said.
She also said how impressed she was with the class. “The teachers were wonderful with the children and the children were so well-behaved and well-mannered. The Head Start program is a well-kept secret.”
The Arkansas Society for Public Health Education (AR SOPHE), a statewide professional organization of health educators, was another group that adopted a classroom.
“Being able to provide gifts to the children of the Head Start program at the Metro location was such a wonderful experience,” said Kim Miller, AR SOPHE treasurer. “I had so much fun helping plan and purchase the gifts, but seeing the kids’ excitement was priceless. This was such a worthwhile project and one I plan to continue.”
The Head Start program began in 1965 to serve children from families whose income is less than 100 percent of the federal poverty level. UAMS assumed the Pulaski County Head Start programs in 1998.