Today, January 24th, is International Day of Education. The United Nations General Assembly coined this all too important day to address challenges to achieving universal education and the importance of education as a human right and as a key to sustainable development. The UN expresses a continuing hope to provide equitable, accessible education for all.
Here at Lutheran Services Florida, we see everyday as a new opportunity to further this mission. One of our longest standing programs has been our partnership with Head Start. While many people know what Head Start does on a day-to-day basis, sometimes the mission and larger goals of the organization get lost in the ether.
LSF is the managing partner of five Head Start programs, an organization that works to provide children from zero to five with no-cost education and comprehensive services. We believe every child deserves the best start she or he can have, no matter their circumstances. That’s why LSF has, for more than 40 years, provided the highest quality early childhood education to children who otherwise might have been left behind.
Our staff works tirelessly to ensure that the roadblocks to making equitable education accessible are being removed. Bob Bialas, Executive Vice President of Children and Head Start Services shared one of the biggest hurdles to accessible education for Head Start students – “One of our biggest issues is ensuring the kids that come to us have access to supplies, technology, and resources. We work towards helping these families get the items they need to help the kids succeed. Head Start teachers work hard to ensure these items are accessible to all students.”
Head Start works to promote lifelong learning in all children that take part in programming by not only fostering a love of education in the child, but by working to continue educating the families as well. “For many families, this is the first opportunity for children, outside of their own homes, to be in a program that not only offers care for the child but also education and comprehensive services, which go hand in hand with a love for learning. We are able to provide medical, dental, and nutritional support along with family services to help make it easier to prioritize education,” Bialas said.
This work is all encompassing, and the staff that make up the centers we manage go above and beyond to ensure each child and their family is being assisted in every way possible to ensure that they carry the value of education through out the rest of their life. “Our teachers are more than just teachers. They’re counselors, nutritionist, behavior health specialist, family engagement specialist, physical education coaches and at the forefront of it all, they are educators,” Bialas said.
“LSF’s vision and mission and the heart the organization displays and the backbone of why we exist goes hand in hand with what Head Start does,” said Bialas. “We have compassion for the individuals we serve throughout the state. LSF has extensive history working with ALL groups. The leadership and CEO at LSF make it a great fit for a partnership with Head Start.”
Whether you are the parent of a Head Start student, a former Head Start student yourself, or just an active member of your community looking to further the mission of this vital organization, there is one takeaway.
Education improves the world around you, and by fostering a love for education in a way that is accessible to all is work that MUST continue. If you want to help continue the work Head Start and LSF has been doing, we encourage you to donate your time and services in any way that you can.
“We’re always looking for volunteers, the children really light up when they see community members and new adults come in and engage with the programs. The community improves when it engages in these programs,” Bialas said.
To learn more about the LSF Head Start programming available and to get involved, visit https://www.lsfnet.org/children-families/head-start/