Low-income children in the Archdiocese of Louisville and the wider community will once again have access to early childhood education through the Head Start program, thanks to a new partnership.
The Newburg Head Start program, serving children ages three and four, will open on the campus of St. Ignatius Martyr Church, 1816 Rangeland Road, next week. An Early Head Start program, serving children from birth to age three, is expected to open this summer.
A partnership between the Archdiocese of Louisville and the Ohio Valley Educational Cooperative (OVEC) is making the program possible, said Deacon Lucio Caruso, who serves as a permanent deacon at St. Ignatius. OVEC is one of two organizations administering the federal funds for Head Start and chose St. Ignatius as the location for its first program.
The Jefferson County Public School system stopped offering the Head Start program close to two years ago.
Father David Cockson, pastor of St. Ignatius, said hosting thenew Head Start program will breathe new life into the parish.
Parishioners had been asking if there would ever be a school at the parish again, Father Cockson said. St. Ignatius School closed in the early 1990s.
“I said I thought it would happen, but not in a traditional way,” said Father Cockson during a recent interview. “They (parishioners) thought the best way to revitalize the parish was through a school.”
He learned on Christmas Eve that the parish had been chosen as the site for Head Start.
“It’s a rebirth, a resurrection we will experience here at the parish. I’m blessed to be a part of it,” said Father Cockson.
He anticipates that the Head Start Program will benefit St. Ignatius families, many of whom are immigrants and refugees, as well as families from the wider Newburg community.
The Head Start classrooms — five to begin with — are located in St. Ignatius’ old school building. The program will serve about 85 students initially, said Deacon Caruso. There are plans to renovate the old convent for office space and the lower level for more classrooms. And there’s room to grow, he noted.
Leon Mooneyhan, who serves as OVEC’s CEO, said St. Ignatius’ facilities and location drew the new Head Start program.
“It was in a location that has a population we could serve that wasn’t too far away,” said Mooneyhan. “We were looking for communities where there’s need. This makes it an ideal location.”
The “enthusiasm and helpfulness” of the people in the archdiocese also went a long way in helping OVEC make the decision, he noted.
“We’ve really hit on a good partnership. They’re excited and they see our ability to serve kids in poverty and that’s important to the church,” said Mooneyhan. “People of faith feel like education is most important for those in poverty. If anything will change the trajectory of kids in poverty, it’s education.”
To that end, the St. Ignatius program aims to address the needs of the whole family. Head Start provides support services for the families of children enrolled in the program. Catholic Charities is facilitating that end of the program.
Colin Triplett, director of the agency’s Office of Migration and Refugee Services, said his office is providing two employees to serve as family advocates, who provide support for the immigrant and refugee families with children enrolled in Head Start. These advocates will do home visits to make sure the young students are progressing.
His office also will oversee a “Family Learning Project,” a program that will offer parenting skills and English as a Second Language classes for parents, as well as homework help for older children. These will be provided in the evenings, and childcare will be offered to make it easier for parents to attend, said Triplett.
“This whole-family approach makes sense,” he said.
Leisa Schulz, superintendent of Catholic Schools in the Archdiocese of Louisville, said, “The Head Start model is an excellent one for early childhood education. It allows us to serve areas that may not have had access to high-quality early childhood education,” she said during a recent interview.
OVEC plans to start programs in other churches in the archdiocese. Schulz’s office has been helping connect OVEC with other parishes interested in a similar partnership. A second site will open at St. Teresa of Calcutta Church in Fairdale later this year, said Schulz.
Families living at or below the poverty line are eligible for Head Start. Children who are homeless, receiving public assistance or in foster care are also eligible, regardless of family income.
For more information on the Head Start program, call OVEC at 502-647-3533 ext. 281. To apply for the program online visit www.ovec.org.