Demand for Head Start increases

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, September 18, 2002

Katie Engelman stood on her tip toes to reach the top of a stack of blocks she a built on a table.

When she stacked it as high as she could, she began to take them down one at a time.

Katie, 3 of Austin, was playing in the Corcoran Center at St. Edward's Church Friday at an open house for her Head Start class.

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A third section of Head Start classes for 3-year-olds, called Home Base, was added this school year after demand for the classes rose 12 families from 78 to 90. Head Start, a program funded by human services and the Minnesota department of economic security, helps low-income families prepare their children for grade school.

Whether a family qualifies depends on the number of their children and the family's yearly income, which is usually lower than $15,000 a year, said Jill Vollmer, of Head Start.

Vollmer said because a large part of Austin's population is low income families, the demand for the program is higher.

"A lot of our parents are still working full-time and still qualifying," Vollmer said.

In Mower County, 16 percent of households earn less than $15,000 a year, according to 2000 Census results.

Katie and the other 3-year-olds in the Home Base classes will meet every other Friday for three hours. Head Start teachers also will visit their homes weekly to help their parents teach them the basics. Four-year-olds enroll in a four day a week class called Center Base, which already had three sections.

Head Start considers parental involvement highly important in the program and holds monthly programs for the parents to participate in.

The main goals of Head Start are for children to develop in four ways: intellectually, socially, emotionally and physically.

"They start to get the idea of playing with peers," said Lois Suckow, of Head Start.

Transportation and meals also are provided for the children.

Head Start is still taking applications for the program and Vollmer said they would like to take as many students as possible.

Katie's mother, Amy Engelman, put Katie in Head Start so "she won't be so shy about being around kids." She also wants her to learn basics like colors and her address.

Bill Hinds, of Austin, enrolled his son Drew, 3, because he and his ex-wife heard it was a good program.

"We want him to have a little more interaction with kids his age," Hinds said.

Phil and Yhaaira Ingvaldson's daughter Angelia, played with the toy sink and dishes Friday as her parents looked on. Phil said they enrolled her "to start on her education for when she hits kindergarten."

Cari Quam can be reached at 434-2235 or by e-mail at