Early Head Start offers full-time school for two-year-olds by training parents to teach

First it was pre-k for four-year-olds, then the Mayor announced plans to serve all three-year-olds. Now the city is offering full time school for some two-year-olds for the first time. Our education reporter, Lindsey Christ, has the story.

Two year olds in school, full time, five days a week, 12-months a year.

These are the youngest students the city has ever served through the Administration for Children's Services' Head Start programs — it's called "Early Head Start" and is designed for children under the age of three.

"It's an effort to meet a need that we have in the city to create more center based infant and toddler childcare seats," said ACS Deputy Commissioner Lorelei Vargas.

The federal government, which funds Head Start, has allowed Children's Services to convert 350 Head Start pre-k seats into 160 Early Head Start seats. The first six classrooms opened in July in Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens. Six more begin in September.

The biggest barrier to opening the new program was finding teachers with the required credentials... so the city started a second new program, a partnership between Children's Services and CUNY paying for the parents of Head Start students to go back to school and become accredited teachers.

"What we know is that when parents thrive, their children thrive," Vargas said. "So this is just a win, win, all around, for the city, for our families and for communities."

The parents needed to complete 12 college credits, spend hours student teaching, put together a portfolio of their work, and take a test.

"I get to understand the way children learn, because that is something that I never understand before," said Rosetta Oldacre-Lyken an assistant teacher in the program.

After a year of studying, the first 41 parents just graduated, ready for a new career helping the city staff Early Head Start.

"It's a very rigorous project that they embarked on, that they finished," said Sherry Cleary, with CUNY's Early Childhood Institute.

Most of the parents thought they'd never go back to school. Jasmin Jones' formal schooling had ended at age 13, in Guyana. She loved the college classes - and, like most of her classmates - plans to keep studying.

"I would have never thought that when I enrolled my son in HeadStart that I would, as I say, have a head start as well," Jones said.

The program was so successful this year, the city has committed to continuing it and 30 more parents will begin their studies next month.

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