Head Start Programs in the News - Jacksonville, Florida

Rehema Ellis, at NBC News, reports on the Head Start program in Jacksonville, Florida. [Source]

Students Succeed As Head Start Makes Remarkable Turnaround

The schools were falling apart. Moldy Classrooms. Peeling paint. A playground littered with trash. Federal inspectors [were] so appalled they fired the non-profit group running the Head Start program in Jacksonville, Florida.

Five years later these preschoolers are thriving at a critical time of their brain development.

"What's your favorite color?" NBC News reporter Rehema Ellis asked a group of Head Start children.

"My favorite color [is] pink," responded a little girl wearing a pink shirt.

"Just because we are serving poor people doesn't mean we have to be a poor facility and we have to provide poor services," said LaTanya Wynn-Hall, the Lutheran Services Jacksonville Director of Head Start.

The new management by Lutheran Services [Florida] turned things around with increased funding, more college-educated teachers, better curriculum, and tighter oversight with annual reviews.

Wynn-Hall continued, "90% of our children are ready to enter kindergarten. They are ready to sit down with that rich child and that wealthy child that were able to get all these other resources."

With improvements like this helping nearly a million children nationwide, the federal budget increased this year by 900 million dollars. Still, one study found 60% of children in poverty are not getting Head Start. And child advocates say they should.

"There are many studies that will show Head Start children are more likely to graduate from High School. They are more likely to be employed," said Deborah Bergeron, Director of the Office of Head Start.

Single mom, LaMika Carlisle, takes two buses to make sure her three-year-old gets to class every day. "A day missed is a lesson missed," she said.

"Head Start has made a difference for both of them.

Carlisle continued, "They actually helped me [and] encouraged me to go back to school. I got my G.E.D."

A federal program worth the investment; Giving some of America's most vulnerable children a change for a better life.

[Click for original news story on NBC News]


Chief Education Correspondent, NBC News, "NBC News Correspondents"; Chief Education Correspondent, NBC News, "MSNBC News Correspondents"

Rehema Ellis was named the chief education correspondent at NBC News in 2010. She plays an integral part of NBC News’ “Education Nation” initiative. Her reports appear on “NBC Nightly News,” “TODAY,” MSNBC, and NBCNews.com.

Ellis joined NBC News in 1994 as a general assignment correspondent. She began her broadcast career at KDKA Radio and TV in Pittsburgh. Later, she worked in Boston at WHDH-TV as a reporter and weekend anchor.

Ellis has been part of major headliner stories, including the attacks on the World Trade Center. She was the first person to identify the attack on the air as “Nine-Eleven”. She has reported on Hurricane Katrina, the death of Michael of Jackson and the Haiti earthquake.

She has distinguished herself as a lead correspondent and received numerous awards including local and national Emmys, Edward R. Murrow Awards, Associated Press awards and awards from the National Association of Black Journalists. She is also a recipient of an Honorary Doctorate Degree in Journalism.

Ellis was part of the NBC Emmy award-winning coverage of the plane crash in the Hudson River called “Miracle on the Hudson” in 2008. She also won an Emmy for her reporting on the 2008 Presidential Election of Barack Obama and his historic inauguration.

Born in North Carolina, and raised in Boston, she graduated from Simmons College in Boston and Columbia Graduate School of Journalism in New York. Ellis currently lives in New York City with her son.

She is on Twitter @RehemaEllis.