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Interview with Vanessa Hren and Renee Krueger

Head Start

1. Let’s get started with introductions:

My name is Vanessa Hren, Center Director at the Hesperia Area Child Development Center. I started with FiveCAP, Inc. Head Start as a lead teacher for the 2013 school year after graduating with my Bachelor's Degree in Early Childhood Development. The following year, I stepped into the director role and have been teaching and directing since then.

My name is Renee Krueger, Center Director at the Southern Newaygo FiveCAP, Inc. Head Start Center. I also have a Bachelor’s Degree in Early Childhood Education. I have worked in Newaygo County with children since 1999 and have been with FiveCAP Head Start since 2015. My role as an early childhood educator and facilitator has helped me provide intervention services to children and families of Newaygo County by offering preschool screenings, referrals and direct client services.

2. What does Head Start do?

Vanessa: Head Start is a preschool program that encompasses the whole child's learning. Head Start not only focuses on Kindergarten readiness, but also on the health of the child, the parent's role as their child's first teacher as well as helping parents to set and achieve goals for their family.

Renee: Head Start is a free early childhood program that is funded by federal grants. The program is center-based, offering preschool to three and four year old children; Monday – Thursday. The program components include education, health services, social services, as well as, parent involvement, family literacy and disability services.

3. Who qualifies for Head Start?

Vanessa: Head Start's purpose is to provide service to children who are in the most need of receiving a "head start" on their Kindergarten readiness skills in an effort to close the achievement gap between peers.

Renee: Families qualify for Head Start who meet income guidelines. Families must have a household income at or below 100% of the federal poverty level, are foster families, or have children with special needs. Head Start serves children from 3-5 years of age.

4. Why is health and nutrition a part of the program?

Vanessa: It is important for children to have their basic needs met before they can be ready to learn academics. Head Start sets the stage for learning by also helping parents find a family doctor in order to get yearly health checks for their child, checking hearing and vision to catch any concerns early on, helping parents find a dental home and taking care of any necessary follow-up, and, encouraging healthy eating and hygiene habits for their preschool age child.

Renee: Head Start emphasizes the importance of early intervention of problems which can affect a child's educational, social and emotional development. Two-thirds of the minimum nutritional requirements children need daily are provided while school is in session. Food services include breakfast and lunch. Children are served family-style which creates additional learning opportunities.

5. What differences does Head Start make for families?

Vanessa: Head Start is here to be the child and family's advocate! Teachers form close relationships with the children and their families and that carries on well past the transition from Preschool to Kindergarten. Parent education is provided during home visits, parent-teacher conferences and at monthly parent meetings. Staff assist the families in setting economic goals and helps them ease the transition

from Head Start into a public-school Kindergarten. Being in constant communication with parents and looking out for the families' well-being helps to form a stable, comforting and trusting relationship that benefits not only the child but the entire family.

Renee: The Head Start program provides a safe, caring and physically comfortable environment where children can grow and learn. Head Start encourages the development of creative, self-confident individuals and prepares children to become effective communicators. Head Start supports children's school-readiness skills and prepares them to be lifelong learners.

6. How does someone enroll in Head Start?

Renee: Applications are available at local FiveCAP Offices, Head Start Centers and the FiveCAP website. The program maintains a full enrollment by scheduling appointments with parents and assisting them in completing an enrollment application. The child will receive an acceptance letter once the enrollment criteria has been met. Before school begins, the parent will attend an orientation to become familiar with program policies and center operations. A wait list is compiled to fill any vacancy.

Head Start is currently accepting applications and the deadline is August 15th.

For information contact:

Hesperia Area Child Development Center at (231) 924-9719.

Southern Newaygo FiveCAP Head Start Center at (231) 834-9472.

Head Start website


Head Start teachers in Newaygo County have received special training to cope with COVID-19 safety. They are following the CDC and the State of Michigan's Ready to Learn guidelines. They are doing extensive cleaning, health checks at the door, hold admissions meetings with parents out doors, and will cut back class sizes this fall to help everyone stay safe.

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