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Mel Gravely

Importance of Community Volunteers in Head Start Programs

team_buildingAccording to the Head Start Program Performance Standards Section 1306.22, Head Start programs are required to use volunteers in the day-to-day activities of the program.

(a)Head Start programs must use volunteers to the fullest extent possible. Head Start grantees must develop and implement a system to actively recruit, train and utilize volunteers in the program.
(b) Special efforts must be made to have volunteer participation, especially parents, in the classroom and during group socialization activities.
SOURCE CFR 1301-1311. Head Start Program Performance Standards and Other Regulations. 2006. English.

Sure. Easy for you to say.

Of all the elements within a Head Start program that need constant supervision and maintenance, the human element (i.e. recruiting volunteers and engaging parents) is by far the most complicated.

That’s why The Gravely Group blog spends a lot of time on this subject in particular. We’ve talked about parent involvement being one of the three Secrets to Head Start Success. We’ve even gotten advice from Head Start staff across the country in getting parents to attend your next Head Start parent meeting.

But what about community volunteers? These are individuals who don’t necessarily have children in Head Start currently, but have valuable skills to offer the program. While the primary focus should certainly be on parent involvement, community volunteers can turn out to be an indispensable part of any Head Start program.

A good place to start would be to think about organizations that have similar goals with whom you can partner. For example, say you want to start a community garden at your program to teach children valuable lessons about nutrition and food cultivation. In this case, you may want to reach out to non-profits that are involved in the local foods movement. These organizations will be able to put you in touch with groups of volunteers who can help you set up and maintain the garden, as well as educate the children about the garden. Both Head Start and the local foods movement have goals regarding education about food and nutrition. This could be a mutually-beneficial partnership.

What about your program? What are some ways that you are engaging community volunteers? Leave your comments below!


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