A Historical Look at Head Start

In January of 1964, President Lyndon B. Johnson declared "The War on Poverty" in his State of the Union speech.  In January of 1965, a group of sociologists, psychologists, and pediatricians began discussions of a design that intended to assist children overcome setbacks or obstacles caused by poverty. The name Head Start was chosen by academics who understood the achievement gap and that middle class students get ahead of their lower class peers (Kagan, 2002).  Since its inception in 1965, this program for disadvantaged children has grown into a school year enrolling more than 27 million children.

As a result of this initiative, the Institute of Community Services, Inc. (ICS) was organized in 1966 for the purpose of providing high quality comprehensive child development services to children and families in Mississippi. These services include education, health, nutrition, parental involvement and transition (working closely with child care providers and school districts to develop strategies to support children and families as they make their transition from Early Head Start to Head Start, from Head Start to kindergarten and on through to the third grade.)  In 1971, ICS opened 21 Head Start centers in Marshall and Lafayette counties and served 860 children.  These centers were located in local churches, homes, and old school buildings. Some buildings were in need of renovation so people from the surrounding communities of Marshall and Lafayette were employed to assist in this process to house the children.

These were low income and uneducated people who supported the community and who had the   tenacity and understanding of the importance of early intervention. As a result of this effort, not only did the child benefit from these services, the employee also went on to attain high school and college degrees.  This was a tremendous financial impact on the counties served.  Today, ICS has a staff of over 890 employees in the 14 counties in Northeast Mississippi.  The Institute of Community Services, Inc. (ICS) over a period of 46 years, have grown from 860 children to now serving over 4700 children and families in these counties.

Counties served by the Institute of Community Services, Inc. (ICS):  Benton, Clay, Desoto, Grenada, Lafayette, Lowndes, Marshall, Noxubee, Oktibbeha, Panola, Quitman, Tallahatchie, Tate and Tunica.