New River Community Action receives funding for Head Start preschool program

RADFORD, Va. – Cost is a major barrier to childcare and preschool, yet studies show preschool is crucial for a child’s development and success later in their academic career.

New River Community Action is helping to bridge the gap in the New River Valley, making preschool available to over 300 kids.

The non-profit recently received a $3.6 million grant to help their Head Start program.

Head Start is a preschool program for families who need the most help to afford it.

“Head Start serves the families that are most vulnerable in our community,” said Jennifer Smith, CEO of New River Community Action. “New River Community Action is the safety net for our five regions.”

Ran by the non-profit, Head Start is a free program to prepare kids for elementary school.

I talked to a teacher who has been with Head Start for six years and he said this is a way for kids to learn to develop social skills, and be the most prepared for kindergarten.

“It helps them because they are able to kind of walk in day one of like ‘oh hey I already know how to interact in a classroom setting, now I’m ready for the academics,” said Josh Baysinger. “The kids that are not, they’re going to kind of have to learn, ‘How do I interact?’”

I also talked to a mom who said this program was perfect for her kids.

“They learn a whole lot more than just going from being at home to straight kindergarten,” said Constance Burton. “They’re above levels when they go.”

She said Head Start gave her kids the confidence and skills needed so their first year of school wasn’t as scary.

“In Head Start, they’re learning,” said Burton. “Them being able to start at three years old, gosh, by the time they’re five they know how to spell words bigger than you.”

Along with preschool, New River Community Action has programs set in place to help these families with anything else they may be struggling with.

Officials with New River Community Action said they hope this money can also help start up an after-school program, and a summer program here in the future.

About the Author

Thomas grew up right here in Roanoke and is a graduate of Salem High School and Virginia Tech.

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