A Head Start for Latino Children in Washington State

Lauren McElroy
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This project focuses on early childhood education for the Latino community in Washington State. The research looks to answer the question: How could more eligible Latino children become enrolled in Head Start and how could Head Start provide the most effective preschool experience for Latino children? I specifically looked at the role of parent involvement in enrollment and overall success of their children and how language and culture were integrated into the program.

Methods: I researched the benefits of early childhood education for the child and how it contributed to future educational attainment, and looked at preschool programs as an investment for society. I also investigated aspects of preschool programs which were likely to help Latino children succeed, and how parent involvement and communication were essential to this success. I carried out a case study at the Migrant Head Start program in College Place, Washington which included interviews with parents and staff members, as well as a study of parent surveys and the curriculum used at this program.

Findings:

  • Early childhood education programs have been proven to lead to greater educational attainment and improved life outcomes for minority children, making it a good investment on behalf of the children as well as for society as a whole
  • An effective preschool program for Latino children will accept and respect a child’s home culture and language, effectively communicate with the parent and involve them in their child’s education, and provide health programs and other comprehensive services.
  • Social networking within the Latino community on a local level is an important source of recruitment and enrollment for preschool programs.

Recommendations:

  • Provide staff with appropriate cultural and linguistic training to ensure that children’s home culture and language are accepted and respected in the classroom.
  • Provide parent outreach and education programs designed to involve the parent in their child’s education to the greatest extent possible and facilitate ongoing communication with the parent. These programs should be available in the home language of the family whenever possible and culturally appropriate.
  • Acknowledge specific needs within different segments of the Latino population in Washington State and cater to the community served by each program to the greatest extent possible. Flexibility, creativity and adaptability are key components of an effective preschool program designed to serve its unique community.

Community Partner: This project was carried out with the invaluable assistance of my community partner Yolanda Esquivel, Director of the Migrant Head Start program in College Place, Washington.

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