North End Head Start: A Unique Learning Place for Children

Special to the Regional Review

Action For Boston Community Development (ABCD) Head Start and Children’s Services is an award winning early childhood and education program.  It is the largest childhood provider in Boston, and is among the top three early childhood providers in the State.  It has been established as national experts in the field of early childhood development with a proven record of serving low income families.

The Head Start program is located in Boston’s historic North End.  The program has one classroom with two qualified teachers, serving 20, 3 and 4 year olds.  The hours for the children are 9am to 2pm, serving breakfast, lunch and a snack.  In addition to a rigorous school readiness curriculum, the children enjoy outdoor physical activities, gym time at the Nazzaro Community Center on Mondays, visits to the North End Public Library and other local venues.  The program runs for the children from September to June.

The North End Head Start program began in 1967 in the Bethel, a private community and religious building on Hanover Street, under the direction of its first director Marie Salvati.  It then moved to the Columbus Community Center due to construction that took place in the Bethel.  It turned out to be a temporary move and the program eventually moved to its current location at 9-11 Moon Street, with its entrance on  Suncourt Street.

When Marie Salvati retired 10 years ago, after over 30 years of service, Marilyn Frissora a life-long North End resident took over as Program Administrator.  She has been with Head Start for 19 years.  “ABCD North End Head Start is among the top early childhood providers in the State.  It is a comprehensive program and unlike traditional child care and other early childhood education programs, Head Start promotes school readiness.  We strive to treat the whole child by enhancing social and cognitive development of enrolled children and their families through Education, Health Services, Disabily Services, Dental Health Services, Mental Health Services, Social Services and Nutritional Services” Frissora proudly boasted.  Several screenings are also provided at the Program including vision, hearing, blood pressure, developmental, height and weight, mental and behavioral health.

Parent involvement is the key to success in the Head Start programs.  “Since Head Start believes that parents are the first and most important teachers, the program ensures that every parent has the opportunity to participate in all aspects of the program,” Frissora told the Review.  Parents meet monthly with Frissora to review issues and plans for future activities and events.  They also participate in several workshops.  Parents also volunteer in the classroom as teachers helpers, plan fundraisers, help establish a curriculum, participate in teachers conferences, share ideas and books and assist with gym activities.  They can also attend morning meetings with a mental health consultant, be involved in “Read To Your Child Contest”, get involved with the Boston Reads Lending Library and be a part of the health and safety in the classroom.  Parents can also provide ethnic recipes to enhance the weekly cultural day menu.

Every Head Start program elects a Parent/Policy Committee in the beginning of the school year.  The Parent/Policy Committee meets monthly with the Program Administrator and relevant staff.  This group reviews issues and concerns and plans for future activities and events, as well as budget approval.  Parents have the opportunity to learn skills, run meetings, plan fundraisers and field trips.  This committee is closely connected to the Head Start Policy Council and the Head Start Parent Task Force, which offer city wide forums extending training and decision making power for the parents to the overall ABCD Head Start.

Men are also a part of the Head Start program, where they can benefit from services, workshops and training.  They can participate in activities with the children planned especially for them, through the “Good Guys” program.  Parents participate in a Family Needs Assessment and can be referred for job training, utility discounts, fuel assistance, educational programs like English as a Second Language and early childhood teaching programs.

 

The North End Head Start program receives much needed support from the community, elected officials and other neighborhood service agencies.  They have developed partnerships with the North End Health Center, North End Library, North End/West End Neighborhood Service Center, Eliot School, St John School, St Anthony Society, St Lucy Society, Madonna Della Cava Society, Madonna DelSoccorso Society, Samona Club, Knights of Columbus, Nazzaro Community Center, North End Against Drugs, Mike’s Pastry, White Hen Pantry and Alba Produce, to name a few.

State Senator Anthony Petruccelli and State Representive Aaron Michliewitz are continuous supporters of Head Start.  “The neighborhood and our elected officials help make Head Start the successful program it is” Frissora said.

The program which is free-of-charge falls under Federal Poverty Guidelines.  While Federal Guidelines play the major part of enrollment, family situations also play a large part in the eligibility process.  “I am proud to be a part of the ABCD North End Head Start program.  It has been my pleasure to serve my community and see the difference Head Start has made in so many lives”  Frissora said.

Registration for Program year 2011-2012 is now in progress.  For more information or to register your child, please contact Marilyn Frissora @ 617-367-0532.