Today was a very special day for the Y and for our community as we celebrated the opening of the beautiful new Y Head Start site on East Fayette Street, adjacent to the UA House at Fayette, in partnership with Living Classrooms. This site is our 38th Head Start center in Central Maryland, and 18th in Baltimore City, and an inspiring tribute to the idea that every child deserves a world-class early childhood experience, regardless of their family’s economic circumstances. Started in 1965 by President Lyndon B. Johnson as part of the “war on poverty,” Head Start is now, and has long been, a shining example of what can happen when the doors of opportunity are opened for all. For the past 33 years, we have been honored to do just that in central Maryland where we are today the largest provider of Head Start in the state. Much more importantly, the children we serve achieve school readiness scores that year after year are at or above all assessed children in Maryland (regardless of income). That, along with the fact that about 1/3 of our Head Start teachers were former Head Start parents themselves (who we helped train and certify for classroom teaching), demonstrates that we are deeply embedded, dedicated and effective soldiers in the “war on poverty.”
This morning’s event was punctuated by remarks from Mathew Hamilton, the Chair of the Y’s Baltimore City Head Start Policy Council, who reinforced the excellence with which our program is delivered and addressed the importance of parents and communities “having a voice” in their children’s Head Start program. Living Classrooms was represented by Travis Street, who grew up in the surrounding Pleasant View community, and spoke about our shared commitment to providing not only Head Start but workforce development opportunities for residents of the surrounding community. Y Head Start at Fayette parent Tierra Parker spoke about the positive message children receive when they walk into a state-of-the-art classroom environment which addresses the needs of the whole child, spirit, mind and body. Mayor Catherine Pugh, our guest speaker, highlighted the lifelong benefit of learning how to learn, recalling growing up in the pre-Google era (yes, there was life before Google!) and having to self-sufficiently satisfy her childhood curiosities by looking up information in encyclopedias.
As brilliant and inspiring as all the speakers were, nothing could top the joy of the children from this center who ended the program with the recitation of the poem “All of Me,” which enumerates and celebrates all of our parts and what they are each for (“my hands are for clapping, my legs are for jumping…”).
There are so many thanks to go around for making this morning so special but none more important or significant than Chris Ader-Soto, Senior Vice President of Early Childhood Education at the Y in Central Maryland. Her lifelong work has created the foundation for the amazing success of this program. She has nurtured and guided Y Head Start in Central Maryland to be a premier Head Start in the country and with it, she has helped unlock the door to opportunity for generations of children and their families. Thank you Chris and thank you to the wonderful Y Head Start team she leads as well as to the many Y associates who helped make this morning’s celebration such a success!
All the best,
John K. Hoey
President & CEO
The Y in Central Maryland