Tribune-Democrat: Despite Lack of Funds, Somerset Head Start Opens its Doors for Classes

By Kecia Bal

SOMERSET – In the first few minutes at Head Start, 3-year-old Jazmine Dillow stayed close to her mother – away from the rest of her class, huddled nearby for a story: “Pete the Cat: Rocking in My School Shoes.”

Within 10 minutes, she was exploring blocks and interacting with the others in her own sparkly school shoes.

It’s an experience she might not have had on Wednesday, if Somerset County Community Action Partnership administrators had not borrowed money and cut costs to fund Head Start and Pennsylvania Pre-K Counts programs, absent of funds from the nearly three-months-late state budget.

Head Start and Pre-K Counts started this week for 166 kids in Somerset County. That’s a week later than it would have started if funding had been in place. The pre-K program is fully funded through the state, and Head Start is run with a mix of federal funding – also funneled through state coffers – and state allocations.

Wednesday was the first day for students, and mom Brandi Johnson of Somerset said she’s relieved that her 3-year-old daughter Syarra will have a place to learn.

“I think it’s a very good program,” she said.

“My 13-year-old did Head Start when she was younger. It really got her ready for kindergarten.”
Brett Ziegler of Somerset accompanied his 4-year-old daughter Summerlyn and helped her hang a new backpack in her locker. Ziegler’s son, 3-year-old Shadyn, started Pre-K Counts in the next room. Wednesday marked the start of Summerlyn’s second year in Head Start after the family moved from the Shade-Central City School District this past year.

“We saw last year her improvements – by leaps and bounds – through the program, and we’re so glad to hear that it is available in Somerset,” he said.

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