Friday, Jan. 19th 2018

Head Start goes to college: Campus center benefits children, parents and teachers-in-training

By Debbi Amaral

Early Childhood Services Director

Maui Economic Opportunity, Inc.

Click HERE to access the article in The Maui News as published!


From the very beginning, one of Head Start’s brilliant strategies centered on engaging the community to help deliver services to children and families. As part of that effort, for the last 50-plus years, nonprofit community action agency Maui Economic Opportunity in the state of Hawaii has been committed to helping low income individuals and families become stable and achieve economic security through a variety of services.

And though we live on a tropical island that outsiders might consider as a “paradise,” families residing on Maui with young children face the same challenges experienced by impoverished communities in the continental United States: high unemployment, limited access to proper health-care, lack of mental health services, substance abuse, domestic violence—and the dwindling resources needed to address all of these inequities.

MEO’s outreach includes a Head Start program that serves 246 children in 13 centers on Maui and Molokai. For the last 20 years, one of MEO’s Head Start centers has been located on the University of Hawaii Maui College. This free, on-campus preschool enrolls children of Maui College students as a first priority, and it also serves families living nearby.

Those of us at MEO think that our Maui College center is an inspired manifestation of Head Start’s two-generational approach to comprehensively meet the needs of the whole child and the whole family.

To start with, the Head Start center is open 7:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.— allowing student-parents to easily attend their classes with their children right on campus—the same location—thus lessening commute hassles and letting parents visit between classes. Children, themselves, must attend daily and while there receive a hot breakfast and lunch, plus an afternoon snack.

The college campus also offers an array of experiences for the children—resources in the form of people, services and tangible activities that would otherwise not be readily available within walking distance of the typical Head Start center. From a pumpkin patch and poinsettia farm, to doing a costume parade, and many other opportunities, Head Start children are welcomed participants of the campus.

This creates a very tangible and unquantifiable subliminal benefit for children, too: They get to see their parents attending college and themselves are on campus, surrounded by learners and learning. For youngsters whom we know are highly impressionable, this impression of a college campus with their parents, will have a long-lasting impact for the future. Early on, they can experience college as something fun and familiar.

Meanwhile, the campus location of a Head Start facility—built, by the way at no cost to MEO—provides a reverse form of community engagement. This Head Start program offers student teachers and nurses a hands-on practicum, according to Elaine Yamashita, professor and early childhood education program coordinator.

The college students are an additional assistance to Head Start staff, children and families. The center provides a “real-life” example of working with families and children from diverse backgrounds, cultures and experiences.  In addition, nursing students also utilize the center to gain access to young children during their learning practicum work.

“The college-Head Start partnership has provided a rich experience for our students,” Yamashita said. “The students gain deep appreciation for the hard work of teachers as they participate in the classroom and observe and learn from the Head Start teachers.”

Julie Powers, who teaches a practicum course, has also noticed a difference in students who are able to do their first practicum at the college’s Head Start, Yamashita added. “She sees that they have a wider view and understanding of the children and parents—and the sometimes complicated backgrounds that children come to school with.”

Because of this field experience Head Start offers Maui College students, the college’s Early Childhood Education program has achieved accreditation for its associate degree by the National Association for the Education of Young Children.

“The Maui College associate degree is currently the only associate degree in Hawaii with NAEYC accreditation,” Yamashita noted. Head Start, then, is further contributing to the community by improving teacher training and making the college a more desirable institution.

So with the Maui College Head Start partnership, we have benefits that move out in all directions: Children get high quality education, parents receive the usual Head Start help for families plus—as students—that vital day care service that so often the lack of prohibits college attendance and upward mobility. And, finally, college students in early childhood education and nursing have available on-campus real-life work setting where they can put their newly-acquired training to practice.

This kind of community partnership and engagement has special relevance going into 2018 when we are likely to see attempts to reduce early childhood education federal funding. We need to shout from the rooftops about the goodness of programs like this—whose innovative services are multiplied throughout the community and across generations.

Posted in Our Voice
Comments Off on Head Start goes to college: Campus center benefits children, parents and teachers-in-training

The Vision

All children, regardless of their circumstance at birth, deserve a full and prosperous life.

The Mission

  • Support high-impact Head Start programs for children and adults by creating opportunities for collaboration, networking and information sharing.
  • Unite with state and national Head Start organizations to ensure regulatory and budget outcomes that support our work.
  • Champion the message that every child and family who succeeds makes their community a better place.
  • Provide resources to assist our members in compliance and professional development.

Contact Us

2131 Capitol Avenue, Suite 307
Sacramento, CA 95816



Connect with a Region 9 State Association
Arizona, California, Hawaii, Nevada

Region 9 Head Start

© Region 9 Head Start Association | All Rights Reserved. | Privacy Policy

Site Created by KC Web Specialists, LLC