A head start on the future for little graduates

Three-year-olds take part in educational rite of passage.

Twelve three-year-olds from Baltimore recently took part in a rite of passage usually reserved for older children. They donned caps and gowns and walked in a procession as part of an unofficial commencement ceremony marking the end of their time in plain old day care and their move up to pre-school next month.

The little graduates, whose parents beamed proudly and took photos of them as they walked down the aisle of a North Baltimore day care center in Park Heights, were enrolled in an Early Head Start program that serves infants and toddlers up to age three.

All cuteness aside, the ceremony was meant to promote the importance of early education, celebrate the children's first education experience, and encourage parents to be involved as their children's’s first and lifelong teacher, said Linda Harvey, director of Early Head Start for Family and Children's Services. The non-profit agency organized the commencement ceremony and provides various social services in the city and surrounding counties, including the Early Head Start program n Park Heights.

Early Head Start was created in 1994 to provide comprehensive child development and family support services to low-income infants and toddlers, pregnant women, and their families. It is an outgrowth of the more established and well-known national Head Start program, which turned 50 this year and promotes school readiness for children from low-income families from infancy to age five. Both programs are funded and administered by the Office of the Administration for Children and Families at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The programs offer early learning, health and family well-being services through agencies in local community centers, child care partner locations, and in the children's homes.

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