Monday, March 28, 2011

The Future of Democracy?

Last Tuesday, St. Michael's students filed into the McCarthy Arts Center to hear U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders speak about "The Future of Democracy in America".

Bernie Sanders spoke about issues such as social security, employment, and preserving our environment. When the time came for questions, a student voiced his support of the proposed budget cuts that would eliminate funding to hundreds of Head Start preschool and early education programs around the country. If passed, Head Start programs would close their doors and leave 336 Vermont children without early education and support from these programs. I volunteer at Champlain Valley Head Start where these proposed eliminations hit far too close to home.

At the Franklin Square Head Start Preschool, four year old Olivia sings her favorite Justin Bieber song while practicing writing her name. Grace, from the Ivory Coast, makes play-do spaghetti on a kitchen set while another group of giggling children take turns stirring a bowl of blueberry muffin mix to have at snack. Play based learning excites and engages these intelligent, happy, and creative preschoolers in our classroom. Each week, my roommate, who also volunteers at the preschool, and I laugh about how each student is uniquely funny and ridiculously cute in their own way.

Some of the children and their families are refugees from war torn countries such as Sudan and Somalia. Other children come from low-income households in the Burlington, Franklin Square area. Their families have made a conscious decision to provide their children with the opportunities and education they know will help them succeed. But Head Start does even more. Teachers educate and provide dental hygiene, help make medical appointments, and provide endless support for families. Children are also able eat a healthy, nutritious breakfast and lunch each day at school. The learning continues at home where teachers provide home visits to each child and provide extra care and attention when classroom time ends. Head Start does not just prepare each child for Kindergarten, but plants the seeds for a bright future.

I hope our country, including our students, realize the importance of programs such as Head Start and the positive impact they have on families and communities across the nation. By gaining support for these programs and opposing these devastating budget cuts, we can have a hand in changing the direction of our country. We have a duty to preserve the future and give back to those who may not have the same opportunities that we had. Head Start believes each child should have the opportunity to reach their full potential. After all, how can democracy have a future, if our children do not?

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