On October 6, 2015, Leesville Mayor Rick Allen proclaimed the month of October 2015 Head Start Awareness Month in the City of Leesville.
The Vernon Parish Head Start Program mission is to impact children, families and communities through partnerships.
“It is obvious that the Vernon Parish Head Start Program is committed to offering a quality early childhood program,” said Mayor Rick Allen. “Our young children need these comprehensive services, so it is my pleasure to support Mr. Clay, his staff, and the entire Vernon Parish Head Start Program.”
The Vernon Parish Head Start Program has been served by four directors, Curtis Smith, George Thomas, Brenda Bealer, Barbara Cart, and the present director, Curtis Clay.
In 1966 St. Michael’s school was the first site in Vernon Parish for Operation Head Start, a federally funded program for three and four-year-old children of low-income families. Begun as a six week summer program by the United States Office of Economic Opportunity and sponsored by the Vernon Parish School Board, Head Start continued at St. Michael’s school until it was moved to West Leesville Elementary in 1968. Then, it alternated between East Leesville and West Leesville Elementary for several summer sessions.
On October 22, 1982, President Ronald Regan proclaimed October Head Start Awareness Month: “Perhaps the most significant factor in the success of Head Start has been the involvement of parents, volunteers and the community. Their commitment and the services provided by dedicated Head Start staff have been instrumental in creating a quality program that truly provides young children with a ‘head start’ in life.”
The Vernon Parish School Board continued as grantee, and in 1982 Head Start was made a full-year school program operating at Vernon Elementary, Simpson and Pitkin. In 1990-91 expansion funds were received which meant every community in Vernon Parish offered a publicly funded pre-school class. In 1994, Head Start opened a collaborative class with Northwestern State University Leesville/Fort Polk to serve low-income children of NSU students and as a classroom observation site of early childhood.