Va First Lady visits Giles Head Start program during Back to School Tour

Pamela Northam spends time in Giles County

PEARISBURG – Among parents and educators, there is a growing understanding of the importance of early childhood education.

Research shows 90-percent of a child’s brain develops before the age of 5.

That's why the first lady of Virginia spent most of the day in the New River Valley on Wednesday, as part of her Back to School tour.

Today's children are tomorrow's leaders, and although 3 and 4-year-olds at the New River Community Action Head Start Center in Pearisburg have yet to start kindergarten, teachers, along with former teacher turned first lady of Virginia Pamela Northam know this time in their development is crucial.

“Every child can really succeed when they have the tools they need for school. But not every child has access to quality or early childhood education,” Northam said.

Northam even dropped off school supplies and books from the Governors's office while visiting along with representatives from the United Way.

Sheryl Helm, director of early childhood and family services for New River Community Action said it was an exciting time to meet the first lady.

“She sees the importance of school readiness and she realizes that the most important years are between zero and five,” Helm said.

The Head Start program is especially important for low-income families in the area. Lower-income families make up more than 60-percent of the student population in Head Start Centers in the New River Valley. More than 60 children are enrolled in Giles County; 19 of those students are homeless. 

Emily Perkins, site administrator at Giles County Head Start said that each day the children receive a meal and assistance for any health issues the child may be facing.

"Without Head Start, they would be at home with no socialization or opportunity to learn,” Perkins said.

The first lady's back to school tour in the remaining seven superintendent regions continues Sept. 4 and runs through Sept. 13.

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