Orange County Mayor Jerry L. Demings visits a Head Start classroom in Orange County.

‘Head Start’ Celebrates 55 Years of Learning

Community & Services

For more than five decades, the National Head Start Program has helped turn the graduation cap tassels of more than 37 million low-income children across the United States, instilling in each of them a solid foundation of how to thrive, grow and learn.

On Monday, May 18, 2020, Head Start celebrates its 55th anniversary, while the County program has open slots in registration for its 2020-21 academic year.

Head Start, a school-readiness program for low-income families, serves the most vulnerable populations of Orange County. Those who are eligible, must live in Orange County, have a child who will be 3 or 4 years of age by September 1, 2020 and whose household income meets the 2020 Federal Poverty Guidelines. It is a free program, and offers individualized instruction to enhance intellectual, emotional and social growth.

“Our attendance rate is at about 92%, which is well above federal standards,” said Orange County Head Start Director Sonya Hill. “Our teachers works very hard because we know we are serving our area’s neediest families. Our job is to make sure each of these children can go on and be successful. Head Start works for our community and we have data and evidence that supports this assertion.”

The program, which has been serving families in Orange County since 1965, offers enrolled children the opportunity to learn through “play” and develop a routine. Daily activities include:

  • Practicing and developing social skills
  • Language and literacy learning, as well as concept development
  • Motor and physical development, along with exercise
  • Nutritional breakfasts, lunches, and snacks

The children also gain referrals for medical, dental and mental health services, which are provided to Head Start students, when applicable.

“Many of our children come from single-parent homes,” Hill said. “In addition to providing meals and academic development, we provide emotional support and a safe space for all of our students.”

Orange County’s Head Start program includes 22 sites with 82 classrooms, 85 teachers and 115 teacher assistants.  Classroom sizes range from 7-20 children, and each have a teacher and a teacher’s assistant, as the program has a 10:1 child/teacher ratio.

Students learn in a classroom setting, with in-class instructions, however due to COVID-19, the program has moved to Distance Learning until further notice.

For more information about Head Start, or to enroll your child, visit

Photo cutline: Orange County Mayor Jerry L. Demings visits a Head Start classroom in Orange County.

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