YMCA, Childcare Network of Evanston partner to bring Head Start program to 5th Ward


Colin Boyle/Daily Senior Staffer

The McGaw YMCA, 1000 Grove St. Childcare Network of Evanston and the McGaw YMCA have partnered to provide the Head Start program for children aged 3 to 5.

Ben Pope, Assistant Sports Editor

Low-income families in Evanston, especially those in the 5th Ward, now have a new resource for childhood education.

Childcare Network of Evanston and the McGaw YMCA have partnered to begin providing the Head Start program for children aged 3 to 5, said Deepa Mehta, CNE’s director of early childhood education and family services. The Head Start program — which prepares kids from underprivileged backgrounds for school — will be held at Family Focus, 2010 Dewey Ave.

CNE already offers the Early Head Start program for children aged 0 to 3, but the new program will serve an older age group. Mehta said most of the families the programs serve are below the federal poverty line.

“Benefits are that the families and the child are receiving high-quality early childhood education, which is super important for them to succeed past kindergarten,” she said. “There’s no or little early childhood programs in the 5th Ward, so there’s a giant need for it.”

The Head Start program provides three main services — early learning, health and family well-being — and has about 1,700 agencies nationwide. It is overseen by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Ald. Robin Rue Simmons (5th) said the 5th Ward is a good location to add a new Head Start program because of its demographics, as it contains some of the lower-income areas of Evanston.

“I’m excited that families in the ward that have financial need can now walk their children over to Head Start and give them the early academic support that they need,” Simmons said.

Simmons added she hopes the creation of the program will reinvigorate a push to put an elementary school in the 5th Ward.

The Family Focus building formerly housed Foster School, but it was shut down in 1979. Now, elementary school-aged children in the 5th Ward must attend schools in other wards.

In 2002, a proposal that would have created a school serving students from kindergarten to third grade in the Family Focus building was discussed at a public forum, but it did not come to fruition. Community members in 2002 focused on the neighborhood’s lack of identity, which they said stemmed from the absence of a school.

“This might reignite the conversation about bringing a school to the 5th,” Simmons said. “Our elementary children … do not have that experience of a neighborhood and building community in that way that other children in other wards have.”

Mehta said the CNE’s primarily role will be to serve as the “fiscal agent” distributing federal Head Start funds, while the McGaw YMCA will largely run the program itself. With the two organizations partnered, she said she hopes the program will be a success.

“We provide them with the education support, the fiscal support, the comprehensive services — which includes health, mental health, nutrition — and all sorts of things that help the child and the whole family succeed,” Mehta said.

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @benpope111