Benefits of Aboriginal Head Start

AHS is making a difference for...

Making a Difference for Children

“I keep thinking back to my first son; the difference between when he first started he was very withdrawn and not social to when he left and went to kindergarten, it’s just like night and day. It made a big difference.”

– Scott Nelson: Bus Driver & Parent, Eagle’s Nest AHS & Singing Frog AHS

“The whole program is supposed to help the kids have more self-esteem, be able to be more positive, community-oriented people, and I think that it really does.” – Steven Evenden: Parent & Former Staff, Power of Friendship AHS

Many parents comment on the holistic personal growth they witness their children experiencing in their time in Aboriginal Head Start, from increased cultural knowledge and identity to developing social skills and emerging as individuals. AHS also offers children increased access to professional health care, such as dental, vision and hearing screening and treatment, as well as speech pathology and other services.

“Our son began attending Aboriginal Head Start last year and from that moment on, we have noticed a great amount of improvement in him... The program has given him so many skills, especially in his interactions with others. Every day he comes up with something new he has learned through Head Start... He will be starting Kindergarten in the fall and we are confident that he will be totally prepared, thanks to the Aboriginal Head Start program. [It] has given him self-esteem and confidence which he can build on throughout his life. Thank you so much.” – Joyce Morpaw & Winston Pruden: Parents, Sas Natsadle AHS

“[Arranging vision screening by an optometrist] has been one of our most important milestones in obtaining health care for our children. Already they have dental and hearing check-ups and speech therapy. We are the only preschool in Williams Lake who offers this free service. Last year, 11 out of 15 children had problems with either vision or hearing alone, so we know this makes a big difference for our kids.” – Ana Rawlek: Family Involvement Worker, Little Moccasins Learning Centre AHS

Former students, now in their teens and attending high school, also recognize the role Aboriginal Head Start has played in the formation of their character, and how bonds they made in preschool can last a lifetime. Brittany Hebert, a former student at Prince George AHS, stated that Head Start also taught her to respect others and “…to be kind to one another.”

“I learnt social skills... I really didn’t have that many friends, so when I went to Head Start I met new friends… I still have friends from preschool now.” – Cassandra Westrand: Former Student, Power of Friendship AHS

“It was really fun going [to preschool] here… I’m 9 years old now and I go to elementary school and I’m on the honour role, but I still like to come here a lot because my Grandma works here now.” – Cianna O’Connor: Former Student, Little Moccasins Learning Centre AHS

“Head Start prepared me for what’s going to be going on as I got older… I made lifetime friends.” – Nicole Fusta: Former Student, Prince George AHS

“My kids’ memories of Head Start are wonderful. It’s just such a positive thing. They’re now in grade 10 and grade 8 and they still hang around with some of the children they came to Head Start, so it’s lifelong connections. I ended up adopting those two boys, and Laichwiltach and Head Start gave them roots. They really felt like they had family roots here and they still do.” – Noreen Pollock: Family Networker, Qwallayuw AHS

Parents and visitors have attested to how Aboriginal Head Start sites are very welcoming and warm, providing a familial safe community environment that fosters social skills and allows children to come out of their “shells” and open up, as some parents have put it. This openness becomes crucial to making new friends and sustaining relationships throughout their lives.

“[Before my daughter] went to preschool she really didn’t have a lot of friends… It brought her out to be with other children and around other children.” – Lorraine Fusta: Cook, Prince George AHS

“[My daughter] is coming out of her shell more; she used to be super shy and would cry if anybody came around… she loves coming here, talks about the staff all the time. Shows me everything she’s learned. And she’s learned a lot more and so have I… I’ve learned that I have to participate at being a parent…” – Vera Johnny: Parent, Eagle’s Nest AHS

“It’s been really awesome…. my in-laws saw an immediate change in Brandon’s behaviour. He was more cooperative, more outgoing, and a lot calmer than he was at home.” – Chantelle Leung: Parent, Eagle’s Nest AHS

The socialization and learning in Aboriginal Head Start is apparent when the children move on to Kindergarten. Staff and parents tell of Kindergarten teachers’ endorsement of Aboriginal Head Start, noting that children who have been in the program are easily recognizable.

“The kindergarten teachers call us and they can tell which children have been in Head Start because of what they’ve learned and how they interact with other children.”

– Darlene Gervais: Administrative Assistant & Bus Driver, Power of Friendship AHS

“The biggest change is their language. Every child who comes in from Head Start loves books; every child is willing to sit and look at their own book. In the past, children didn’t understand this was going to be a positive experience; they would hold the books upside down and backwards, and that never happens anymore… and their comprehension is significantly much better. So the language and literacy activities you’ve worked with have shown benefit to the children.” – Amber Knezacek: Kindergarten teacher, Terrace BC

“I’ve heard kindergarten teachers say “We know which ones are from Head Start…. because they sit in a circle, they listen, their behaviour – they socialize better.” – Leila Aubichon: Program Assistant, Prince George AHS

“My daughter was in preschool there – she’s in grade seven now. She excelled when she got into kindergarten. The teacher actually asked me “Where did she go to preschool?”, because she knew far more than most kindergarteners…” – Caroline Laughington: Former Parent, Qwallayuw AHS