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Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany

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Base's Head Start Program earns excellence award

By Cpl. Joshua Bozeman | | June 5, 2002

The Child Development Center's Head Start Program here was recognized Thursday with an award of excellence for its first year of operation.

Eliza Spurling, the executive director for Head Start of Albany, was on hand to present the award to Col. Charles V. Mugno, base commanding officer, who in turn gave it to the two teachers of the MCLB Albany Program.

According to Spurling, an 11-member federal review team rated the base's program based on the team's inspection. Each team member is considered an expert in a specific field, from mental health to nutrition.

Once the team verifies that the program meets federal standards, they report their findings. The program is then given a grade to indicate its performance level.

According to CDC officials, program assistants Sonya Jones and Kim Justiss ensured standards were maintained and guidelines were followed on a daily basis.

Working in an environment where one second someone is throwing something at you and the next someone is giving you a hug and saying, "I love you," isn't easy, the women said. But both agreed the success of the program and its value to the children made it well worth the effort.

Head Start is a national education program that is designed to do exactly what the name implies ? give children a good 'head start' before they enter the first grade.

"You can really tell which parents have worked with their children or what kind of environment a child comes from by the way they behave in school," said Jones. "It is important to start teaching children early, because the best years for a children to learn are from ages 0-2. That is when they start forming habits and learn how they are supposed to act."

The teachers had a class of 17 when school was in, and nine during the summer. Their work not only involves teaching children, but a variety of testing, home visits and parent-teacher meetings.

Another thing that sets the Head Start Program apart from others is that the children are taught individually. Teachers monitor the students to determine the areas of learning they need the most work, and works with the students based on those specific needs.

The students also have two planned field trips a month based on themes that change each week, according to what the children want.

"For instance, let's say the theme for the week was animals. Then the class would go to the zoo," said Jones.                                                                                                
The teachers said one thing that helped the program to be such a success was parent-teacher involvement and the close relationships they developed with one another and the children.

Although the long days and countless behind-the-scenes hours become tiring, neither teacher had any complaints.

"It would be nice if there were more hours in a day," said Justiss. "I've got these kids here, and then two teenagers at home. Sometimes it's like I never left school. But I wouldn't have it any other way."