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HomeNewsLocal newsPlaskett presents $42.4 Million to USVI Head Start Program

Plaskett presents $42.4 Million to USVI Head Start Program

Delegate Stacey Plaskett at Tuesday’s check presentation ceremony. (Image provided by the office of Delegate Stacey Plaskett)

V.I. Delegate to Congress Stacey Plaskett presented a federal check for $42.4 million to the Human Services Department’s Head Start program on Tuesday.

“I am thrilled to celebrate a grant in the amount of $42.4 million to the U.S. Department of Human Services to the Virgin Islands Department of Human Services Head Start program. This funding is for construction grants and will require zero local match to fund the construction and restoration of facilities territory-wide,” said Plaskett, a Member of the House Ways and Means, Budget and Agriculture committees.

Plaskett said that in six decades of operation, Head Start has served more than 37 million children around the country. The U.S. Virgin Islands Head Start program funding provides preschool for low-income families with a comprehensive program to meet children’s emotional, social, health, nutrition, and educational needs.

Also present at the presentation was V.I. Human Services Commissioner Kimberley Causey-Gomez, who described how busy the Mars Hill Head Start location was with parents registering their children for the new school year.

“The part that I love the best about being commissioner is being able to serve all the populations of the Virgin Islands. We start with our little people in Head Start and our office of childcare and we go all the way through every population. If we don’t do this right for our children, we will not be right for our community,” said Causey-Gomez.

Humane Services Commissioner Kimberley Causey-Gomez at check presentation located at the Mars Hill Head Start. (Source photo by Diana Dias)

“Providing access to Head Start supports children’s growth by providing a positive learning environment through learning and development, health, and family well-being, all of which have a positive impact on children’s preschool readiness. The territory embraces this opportunity to effectively leverage the federal dollars that will impact the early childhood education environment for the children of the Virgin Islands for generations to come,” the commissioner said.

Also present were several other representatives from Human Services, including Assistant Commissioner Carla Benjamin, who stated that the grant funds will ensure that the department is able to renovate, upgrade and build new facilities so that the territory’s children are able to learn in a rich environment.

“This opportunity we realize is unique. We fully intend to ensure these funds are utilized, to make sure the granted funded enrollment of 792 children is provided with a state-of-the-art facility so that they are able to ensure the richness of early childhood education,” said Benjamin.

Head Start Administrator Masikia Lewis also shared that the landmark amount of funding awarded on Tuesday will help construct state-of-the-art, mega, multi-purpose Head Start centers around the territory.

“As a Head Start alumni, I know firsthand the importance of having a safe and secure facility that is filled with caring and nurturing people. These proposed new facilities will provide a learning environment that is essential to the development of younger generations and vital to the growth of the U.S. Virgin Islands,” said Lewis.

“We here at the Office of Disaster Recovery take deep pride in rebuilding the Virgin Islands. We call it a legacy of resilience,” said Director Adrienne Williams-Octalien.

Delegate Stacey Plaskett, center, presents a $42.4 nillion check to the Human Services Head Start Program on Tuesday. (Image provided by the office of Delegate Stacey Plaskett)

The Head Start program was launched in 1965 by President Lyndon B. Johnson as an eight-week demonstration project designed to help break the cycle of poverty. The program promotes the school readiness of infants, toddlers, and preschool-aged children in a variety of settings including centers, family childcare, and children’s homes. Furthermore, it engages parents or other key family members in positive relationships, with a focus on family well-being, and creates opportunities for participation in leadership roles, including feedback on program operations.

“I would like to extend a special thank you to Department of Human Services Commissioner Gomez, Assistant Commissioner Benjamin and Head Start Administrator Masikia Lewis for the excellent work they do to support the children in our territory. We must remain unwavering in our commitment and in our advocacy and support for our next generations,” Plaskett said at Tuesday’s check presentation.

Head Start is accepting registrations for the 2022-2023 school year.

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