Sat. Apr 13th, 2024

Head Start’s early-education program opens in Whitehaven YMCA


MEMPHIS, Tenn. – A collaborative goal between the YMCA of Memphis & the Mid-South and Memphis-Shelby County Schools has come to fruition.

Education and Y officials, along with dignitaries, will be at the ribbon-cutting today, Oct. 30, at the completed YMCA Early Learning Center in Whitehaven.

Inside the Georgette and Cato Johnson YMCA – which opened in April – MSCS is launching a Head Start program, which aims to make early education available to as many as 200 preschoolers.

MiMi Mattison’s 4-year-old son is among the handful of children enrolled in the new pre-school.

“It’s great, like everything is nice,” Mattison said. “Teachers are nice. He brings home homework. He brings home things that I can keep; enough stuff that I love and actually shows that they are engaging with the kids. That’s what I like. It’s just good to have something nice in this neighborhood, so I’m really appreciative and I just hope it stays nice.”

Officials say the program will have a curriculum that is aligned with the state’s Early Learning Development Standards, and that is utilized in area school districts.

“Early learning, what we know from research is that 90% of brain development happens before the age of five,” said YMCA of Memphis & Mid-South Early Learning Executive Director Carol Iwhiwhu. “That means it’s a critical and urgent for us to catch the children early from six weeks to five years old prior to school. And so it’s critical for Whitehaven because we do have multiple feeder schools so we want to make sure that we also have that quality early learning experience that prepares children to enter into the community schools.”

The YMCA partnered with MSCS for the Pre-K and Head Start classes in an area they call a “childcare desert”. The new programs will serve 200 children and not just in the classroom, but with health screenings and other district resources too.

“They really serve the whole child. So that includes wraparound services, preventative care, as well as the academic foundation,” Iwhiwhu said. “That’s a perk of being in partnership with MSCS, is for the Head Start program they do health screenings, preventative, dental screenings for children, so those are wraparound services that some of our children may not have access to if they were not in the Head Start program.”

The program will also providing health services, parental involvement initiatives and social services outreach.

Octavia Johnson, YUMCA Early Learning Director, told FOX13 that it’s been amazing seeing the children’s willingness to learn and the parents’ gratitude.

“A parent actually cried the first day of registration,” Johnson said. “It’s just it being in a beautiful facility, where the teachers are excited about teaching. Children are ready to learn, and that warms any parent’s heart, to know that their children are safe and in a loving environment.”

The new $12.5 million Y facility replaced the former Thomas Davis YMCA, located at 4727 Elvis Presley Blvd.

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