Image: Pixabay

Image: Pixabay

Skagit/Islands Head Start, San Juan Island Community Foundation, and Skagit Valley College Foundation partner to expand Head Start access in Friday Harbor

  • Fri Sep 11th, 2020 1:30am
  • News

Submitted by Skagit Valley College

Skagit/Islands Head Start, San Juan Island Community Foundation and Skagit Valley College Foundation are proud to announce that more Friday Harbor children and their families will have access to early learning education, resources and support this fall, thanks to their partnership that will bring a larger Head Start modular building to its new location at Friday Harbor Elementary.

The previous modular was no longer able to serve the number of families who wanted access to Head Start services and programming. It is being replaced with a new, three-classroom modular, providing an expansion in space and ensuring the wonderful learning environment for local children.

“The Community Foundation is honored and excited to be an active partner in this project,” said Carrie Unpingco, San Juan Island Community Foundation Executive Director. “We continue to see an increased need for more early childhood educational opportunities for our island children, and because Head Start provides such a valuable resource for so many families, we just had to join in. Investing in our youth will improve and enrich the quality of life on San Juan Island.”

Established in 1965, Head Start is a federally funded comprehensive program that serves vulnerable children and families who are dealing with poverty, homelessness and a number of factors that can impact children’s healthy development. The program reaches families with children prenatally to 5 and prepares children to reach kindergarten ready-to-learn. Services include early learning and development, nutrition, health and dental well-being, mental health, support for disabilities and family services. Skagit Valley College’s Skagit/Islands Head Start (SIHS) program began in 1968 and reaches San Juan, Island and Skagit counties. The new modular will allow SIHS to add an Early Head Start classroom to their program and convert their preschool Head Start programming to full day offerings.These changes allowed the program to begin working with the underserved birth to 3 population in new ways with full-day, year-round services. SIHS also partners with San Juan Island School District to serve preschool children with special needs in the Head Start class, and with Toddler Learning Center to support toddlers with special needs. To learn more about Skagit/Islands Head Start, visit http://www.sihs.skagit.edu/about-head-start.php.

According the Educational Service District, 24.3% children in San Juan County are living below the federal poverty guideline. San Juan County has 266 children under the age of 3 (OFM). With that, it’s estimated there are 74 income eligible children birth to five living in San Juan County. During planning meetings with the San Juan County Early Learning coalition and the San Juan School District, it was reported that there is a serious lack of quality early care for birth to 3.

In order to meet early learning needs in Friday Harbor, San Juan Island Community Foundation, Skagit/Islands Head Start, and Skagit Valley College Foundation are continuing their partnership, now focusing on raising approximately $35,000 to complete the project, which include the utility and technology hook-ups, and final modular site work. Most of this project is funded through a Head Start grant; however, local support is needed to complete the new Center. Thanks to the generous community on San Juan Island, donors have already contributed almost $100,000 to this $1 million project.

“For 14 years, I have witnessed island children and families benefit and be empowered through the family-centered, child-focused partnerships that Head Start provides,” said Sarah Werling, San Juan Head Start Center Manager. “I am grateful to be a part of a collaborative organization that believes in the power of early intervention and for the community partnerships that have formed along the way. I am so excited for our staff, our children, families, and for our community. Now, let’s get to work!”

The three partners invite the public to join them in this vital community-based project. It is expected that the Head Start Friday Harbor facility will open in December and will serve approximately 24 Friday Harbor children and their families.

To help support this fundraising effort, please contact Carrie Unpingco, San Juan Island Community Foundation Executive Director, carrie@sjicf.org, 360.378.1001 or online at www.sjicf.org; Mary Ellen Lykins, Skagit/Islands Head Start Director, MaryEllen.Lykins@skagit.edu; or Brad Tuininga, SVC Foundation Executive Director, Brad.Tuininga@skagit.edu.