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SPRINGFIELD — Holyoke, Chicopee, Springfield (HCS) Head Start is once again participating in the Week of the Young Child, the purpose of which is to focus public attention on the needs of young children and families and to recognize the early-childhood programs and services that meet those needs.

Originally created in 1971 by the National Assoc. for the Education of Young Children in an effort to recognize that the early-childhood years (birth through age 8) lay the foundation for children’s success in school and later life, this week continues as an annual event celebrating early learning.

HCS Head Start prepares preschool children not only for kindergarten, but for life. According to the Brookings Institute (2016), children who attend Head Start have a higher likelihood of graduating high school, attending college, and receiving a post-secondary degree, license, or certification. Since Head Start’s inception in 1965, the organization has improved the lives of more than 32 million children and their families.

“All the data reinforces how a child’s earliest years are fundamental in shaping their learning and development, yet never before have the needs of young children and their families in our community been more pressing,” said Nicole Blais, CEO of HCS Head Start.

In addition to early-education services, as a multi-service agency, HCS Head Start provides comprehensive programs, services, and support for children and their families, with programs including cooking, money management, parenting classes, a healthy relationships program, and more.

HCS Head Start has planned a fun-filled week of happenings celebrating early learning, young children, their teachers, families, and communities. Children enrolled in HCS Head Start will enjoy Week of the Young Child with hands-on, collaborative activities encouraging movement and healthy lifestyles through music, food, and art.

The festivities also include storytime guest readers. While some guest readers are still pending, confirmed guests include HCS Head Start board members, members of the organization’s health advisory board, and two area mayors: Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno today, April 8, at 9 a.m. at Carew Street Head Start Center, 65 Carew St., Springfield; and Chicopee Mayor John Vieau, Friday, April 12 at 10 a.m. at Lincoln Grove Early Learning Center, 216 Broadway St., Chicopee.

In addition, Head Start families are invited to Ride the Wellness Wave, a free health and safety resource fair hosted by HCS Head Start’s health team on Tuesday, April 9 from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. at the Carew Street Head Start Center at 65 Carew St., Springfield. Local community organizations will be on hand to provide information and resources to families in an effort to continue to promote the importance of overall health and wellness for young children and their families.