Baltimore City Head Start Earns State’s Highest Rating

Baltimore City Head Start Earns State’s Highest Rating

BALTIMORE (WBFF) - A Head Start in west Baltimore recently became the first in the city to earn the Maryland State Department of Education’s highest rating.

The Union Baptist Head Start is located on Druid Hill Avenue, in an area of the city where it’s easy to just see the decades-old remnants of violence and vacancy. But Rev. Dr. Alvin C. sees something different.

“Here I am now, a son of this church, now the pastor of this church. Now, the head of our Head Start program, right at the address in which I was born,” says Hathaway.

Hathaway sees his childhood home, which is now home to 175 children Monday through Friday at the city’s oldest, and perhaps most successful, Head Start.

“I affirm them, to make certain that they know there's an environment where they're loved and respected,” says Hathaway.

Head Start is an early education program for three and four year olds in low income areas. The idea started in the 1960s as part of the war on poverty. The program at Union Baptist also started in the 60s. Last year, it did something no other Head Start in Baltimore has ever done – received five stars from the Maryland State Department of Education, its highest rating. Every other Head Start in the city is a three or less.

“I remember when I first came here, I used to, when I was blessing my food, thank God every day for allowing me to be here. And I still feel that way 15 years later,” says Gayle Headen, Director of Union Baptist Head Start.

Headen is just the third director in this Head Start’s 52-year history. She understands what this program means to this community, because in 1970, when she was three, she went here.

When asked if she thinks about her commitment to an area of the city that many have dismissed, Headen replied, “We think about it every day and that's why we know what we do is so important.”

Now, with nearly 200 students, Union Baptist Head Start runs at capacity. The waiting list is a full year. Kids who go here, don’t just learn their ABCs, they receive social, emotional, health and nutrition services through community partnerships, like the breathe bus for students suffering from asthma. Each classroom also has foster grandparents. Some have been there for decades.

“Yes, we are preparing them for school, but for beyond that. We're preparing them for so much more,” says Headen. “It’s a wonderful place to be. It brings purpose to my life every day. And I know that what I do, and what we do, makes a difference.”

A difference that is generations in the making.

“Now, I can make certain that doors are open for young people in this community, just like they were open for me,” says Hathaway. “We're going to make certain that we expose our children to the best that we have.”

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