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Oct 25, 2011 11:35 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Long Island Head Start Celebrates 45 Years

Oct 27, 2011 7:52 AM

Last Wednesday marked a special day of festivities at Bridgehampton Head Start.

About 40 children between 3 and 5 years old and adorned in colorful birthday hats celebrated the 45th anniversary of Head Start on Long Island, a federally-funded preschool program geared toward helping low-income families prepare their children for school.

The day’s activities included “pin the 4 and 5 on Long Island,” singing, baking cupcakes and eating cakes and cookies, according to Daphne Gil, the Bridgehampton Head Start center manager. The center is one of 25 on Long Island. Nationwide, the program has enrolled more than 27 million children since 1965, according to the federal Office of Head Start’s website. Bridgehampton Head Start educates children in families that span Hampton Bays to Montauk.

“It’s a big deal,” Ms. Gil said. “We’ve been helping them on Long Island for 45 years, one year less than Head Start in general.”

While the program has helped 1,675 families this year alone on Long Island, Ms. Gil reflected on the hundreds of others that are still in need. She said that about 777 families island-wide remained on this year’s waiting list. And that’s not representative of everyone who needs services. “Every day, we get new applications in from needy families,” she said.

There’s also great need for Early Head Start—a program that educates children from birth to their toddler years—on the East End, Ms. Gil said. “So many people we haven’t even been able to reach,” she said.

Looking back, Ms. Gil said one of the accomplishments she’s proud of is Bridgehampton Head Start’s partnership with its neighbor, the Children’s Museum of the East End (CMEE), where a group of about 16 students receive their Head Start education in a classroom in the museum.

The result, Ms. Gil said, is that the children receive an enhanced education on a intellectual and creative level.

“CMEE takes that extra level into art and creativity,” Ms. Gil said. “In the future, we’re going to want to have the scientists and mathematicians, but they’ve made so many links in art and music to mathematical skills and science skills.”

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