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Head Start gets a leg-up

Modified: Monday, Jan 2nd, 2017

$3 million grant allows group to expand services

SANTA CRUZ COUNTY — Santa Cruz-based Encompass Community Services has received a $3 million grant that will allow it to expand 10 Head Start and Early Head Start programs.

The award will increase access to Head Start programs for 146 low-income families countywide.

Encompass Community Services, which oversees the Head Start programs, was awarded the funds this month from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Santa Cruz County’s local Head Start centers support school readiness and promote healthy families through delivery of education, health, and social services.

The award includes one-time funding of $1.7 million, and ongoing funding of $1.5 million annually for Head Start and Early Head Start programs.

In 2015, organizers estimated that 3,644 children aged zero through 5 live in low-income households. Of those, about half were not receiving services.

The money will be used to hire new teachers, open a new center in Felton and repair and upgrade the organization’s current centers, which will allow the organization to expand its reach to young children, said Jerri Winner, Child Development Director at Encompass Community Services.

It will also allow Head Start to offer full-day, full-year service to 29 percent of its current participants, furthering its goal of offering those services to 100 percent of low-income children by 2021, Winner said.

“Research shows that young children need more learning time in high quality programs to prepare them for success later in school and in life,” she said. “Providing this level of high quality education to our most vulnerable children will create lasting positive impacts in not only their lives but for the whole community.”

For information about Head Start, call 688-3802 or 724-3885.

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