PORTAGE COUNTY Helping kids get a Head Start PPIC will showcase local history of program Tuesday

Chad Dryden Published:

By Chad Dryden Record-Courier correspondent When President Lyndon Johnson helped initiate in 1964 what would become the Head Start Program, Portage County was quick to follow the lead in what Johnson had declared a War on Poverty. And when Head Start a program that provides comprehensive child development services for low-income and at-risk infants, toddlers and preschool children was officially launched in 1965 as an eight-week summer program serving 560,000 kids nationwide, Portage County remained right there with it. Here in the present, the program, which is now in the hands of the Portage Private Industry Council, continues to provide center- and home-based educational, emotional, social, health and nutritional services to numerous children and families throughout the region. As the federal program grew and changed over time, so did Portage Countys, which currently serves more than 400 children in seven centers throughout the county. That growth and change with be highlighted Tuesday at PPICs Head Start Community Awareness and Family Day, which will be held from 3 to 6 p.m. at the PPIC administrative offices in Ravenna. From a Tiny Seed, a Mighty Tree Grew will feature a historical overview of the Portage County Head Start program and how it has impacted the community. Refreshments and free informational handouts will be available, as well as childrens activities such as free fingerprinting, face painting, animal masks, bird feeder making and a clown. Perhaps more importantly, the event will give community members the chance to have their voice heard on the state and federal levels, as proposed changes by President Bush and Gov. Bob Taft threaten to disrupt the services the county provides. According to PPIC, Bush is looking to give control of Head Start to the states and allow them to reduce the quality standards of the program. Taft has proposed a change that PPIC said will serve fewer children while spending more money. Taft is looking to make Head Start a full-day program and cut children from half-day services, said Kim Vojtkofsky, PPIC program manager. That will affect 4,000 children in the state and eight locally. Because of this, PPIC has invited representatives to appear at Tuesdays event to discuss the issue. It also will give Portage County residents the opportunity to write to their congressmen for support against the changes. All comprehensive services will be lost (to the families who the changes would affect), Vojtkofsky said. It would be detrimental to the families and children we serve who wont qualify for full-day services. A tree dedication ceremony with the Portage County commissioners will kick off Tuesdays events at 3 p.m. The PPIC office is located on the lower level of the Key Bank building at 145 N. Chestnut St., in Ravenna. The first 30 children to attend the event will receive a free goody bag. For more information, call (330) 297-7795.

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