Head Start recruiting children for fall start

By Wayne Bryan Originally Published March 28, 2013 at 12:00 a.m.
Updated March 27, 2013 at 9:53 a.m.
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PHOTO BY: Rusty Hubbard

Sephora Faiq, left, and Treasure Owens play at the Head Start Center in Arkadelphia.

As Charmaine Hall of Arkadelphia drives around Clark County, she looks for the signs of small children, said Carla Merkel, head of the Head Start program in Arkadelphia.

“First, she knows everybody in the county,” Merkel said. “If she sees toys in the yard of a house as she drives by, she has a pretty good idea there are kids about, and she will stop and talk to the parents.”

Hall, assistant director of the Arkadelphia Head Start Center, is conducting a target-area survey in the county to determine the number of preschool children who might be eligible for the Head Start program operated by the Central Arkansas Development Council.

“We go door to door for the survey,” Merkel said. “It is a good recruiting program that lets us know how many children are out there that could use our help, and parents get to know we are here.”

Information about Head Start and all it offers often travels by word of mouth, she said.

“Parents of children in the program will tell their neighbors about Head Start,” Merkel said. “When we conduct a survey, we always suggest that parents tell family and friends.”

Head Start is a free child and family program with a focus on increasing the school readiness of young children of low-income families, said Robin Freeman of the CADC office in Benton. The children enrolled in Head Start have access to educational resources and instruction, as well as health, dental and nutritional services, along with social services for the family.

Merkel said Head Start offers early reading and writing skills for 3- and 4-year-olds so they will be better prepared for kindergarten. The children in the program receive meals and snacks during the day. They are also eligible for free health, vision and hearing screenings and disabilities services, if additional needs are found.

“We enroll 67 children in Head Start, and we have 34 going on to kindergarten next year,” Merkel said. “That means we will have 33 open slots for the fall, and we are full every year.”

Head Start in Arkadelphia begins as early as 6:30 a.m. and continues until 5:30 p.m., Merkel said.

There are three separate Head Start programs in Clark County. In addition to the Arkadelphia office on North 23rd Street, there is one in Amity on North Clark Street and another in Gurdon on East Main Street.

All of the offices are recruiting students for classes that start when the school year begins in the fall.

To be eligible to enroll in Head Start, a child must be 3 or 4 years old. The family must also meet income guidelines.

“For example,” Merkel said, “a family of three must make $19,530 or less, and a family of two has an income limit of $15,000.”

Family income will be verified, and a child’s birth certificate and immunization records are required to complete a Head Start application.

Head Start works closely with the Arkadelphia School District’s preschool program.

“If someone does not qualify because of income, we suggest the school system’s program, and they will recommend our services to some parents,” Merkel said. “We invited some of the school system’s kindergarten teachers to our classes, and they often work with us, and the school district helps us make sure the paperwork needed to get into kindergarten is in order.”

The CADC also has Head Start centers in Hot Springs County with offices in Malvern, Bismarck and Magnet Cove.


Clark County

• Amity Head Start Center; 213 N. Clark, Amity, AR 71921; (870) 324-5358

• Arkadelphia Head Start Center; 301 N. 23rd St., Arkadelphia, AR 71923; (870) 246-8089

• Gurdon Head Start Center; 410 E. Main, Gurdon, AR 71743; (870) 353-6616

Hot Springs County

• Bismarck Head Start Center, 2078 Arlie Moore Road, Bismarck, AR 71923; (501) 865-1882

• Magnet Cove Head Start Center; 21977 Arkansas 51, Malvern, AR 72104; (501) 332-6906

• Malvern Head Start Center; 1735 E. Sullenberger, Malvern, AR 72104; (501) 337-1502

Saline County

• Benton Head Start Center; 321 Edison St., Benton, AR 72015; (501) 315-6456

• Harmony Grove Head Start Center (Haskell); 115 School Road, Benton, AR 72015; (501) 776-1697

• Paron Head Start Center; 16494 W. 12th St., Paron, AR 72122; (501) 594-5668

• Shannon Hills Head Start Center; 11925 County Line Road, Alexander, AR 72002; (501) 455-4932

Staff writer Wayne Bryan can be reached at (501) 244-4460 or wbryan@arkansasonline.com.

Tri-Lakes Edition Writer Wayne Bryan can be reached at 501-244-4460 or wbryan@arkansasonline.com.

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