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An education can never start too early

Teresa Laraby Teresa Lara
Head Start students participate in a collaborative learning environment at USC's Child Development Center. (Photo/Ryan Quon)
Photo: Head Start students participate in a collaborative learning environment at USC's Child Development Center. (Photo/Ryan Quon)

It’s been said the early bird gets the worm. So imagine the satisfaction of local parents whose children have received the benefits of an early education through USC over the past four decades.

As the recipient of a new $4.7 million grant, the USC School for Early Childhood Education will continue to operate its Head Start preschools.

Since 1970, the Head Start programs have prepared children under the age of 5 with quality preschool education, prenatal care and home-based care. The Early Head Start programs serve children from birth to 3 years of age; the Head Start program serves 3- to 5-year-old children.

The programs use research-based curriculums, screening tools, developmental assessment tools and individualized education plans for each child, including parenting classes, literacy development, tutoring, social services, health and nutrition support, and mental health counseling.

The two programs also offer screenings for health, dental, development, nutrition and social skills within the first 45 days of attendance at school. The screenings support the early identification of children with concerns or issues related to development. Children with disabilities are welcome; services and resource support are also given to families with disabilities.

Anabell Guzman has noticed a significant improvement since her 3-year old son, Javier, started the program in the fall.

“There is so much that has changed, I don’t know where to start,” Guzman said. “My son’s language and his knowledge have increased, and the teachers are great. I have had the opportunity to learn so much from USC Head Start, and it has expanded my horizons.”

Henry Tobar, another parent, echoed those comments.

“My daughter is doing well, she is speaking more, her social skills are great and she now shares what her day is like with me, which is new,” he said.

Tobar also participates in the Parent and Child Time program that provides communication tools.

“I have learned a lot about my child, and it’s so amazing to see the world through her eyes,” Tobar said.

The university offers early childhood education programs at the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences, the USC Rossier School of Education, the USC School of Social Work, the Ostrow School of Dentistry of USC and the USC School of Pharmacy. Women, Infant and Child centers, the John Tracy Clinic, the Los Angeles County’s Department of Public Social Services, the South Central Los Angeles Regional Center, Children’s Hospital Los Angeles and the Los Angeles Unified School District are among the local agencies that also provide services.

“In addition to putting our neighborhood children first, USC has had a strong outreach arm to the community for many decades,” said Theda Douglas, associate vice president of Government Partnerships and Programs and chair for the School for Early Childhood Education’s Board of Directors.

“We recognize that an investment in children is an investment in the future growth of our society,” she added.

Head Start grants are sponsored by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

For more information, contact USC Civic Engagement (213) 821-2746.

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